Local councils write to chief constable to urge u-turn on plans to reduce PCSO numbers

Councils in North Devon have expressed their concern at plans to cut up to 190 PCSOs across Devon and Cornwall over the next four years.

The force is set to gain 100 police officers, 50 criminal investigators and 30 online record takers as part of the £24million funding shake-up.

But North Devon and Torridge district councils, and Barnstaple Town Council, are all set to write to police chiefs to lament the loss of Police Community Support Officers.

At a Barnstaple Town Council on Monday night, the council voted unanimously to ‘send a clear message’ to the chief constable Shaun Sawyer, as well as Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.

Councils in North Devon have expressed concern about plans to reduce PSCO numbers. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoCouncils in North Devon have expressed concern about plans to reduce PSCO numbers. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Deputy mayor Ian Roome said: “I think it’s going to be a sad loss to the police; we should write to say the council is dismayed at the decision to reduce PCSO numbers.”

North Devon Council has also agreed to write to Mr Sawyer and Ms Hernandez.

Tabling a motion at Wednesday night’s full council meeting, Councillor Brian Greenslade said police referred to PCSO colleagues as ‘gold dust’ and that concerns about the impact of a reduction in numbers was raised by businesses at a recent Barnstaple Town Centre Management meeting.

“There is a great deal of concern about the loss of very popular and very effective PCSOs,” said Mr Greenslade.

“They are a valuable resource and there is concern in the community and among the police service.

“I think the police should at least pick this up with the chief constable to let him know the concern in the community.

“He has a difficult job balancing the demands he has got but as a local authority I think we should be flagging our concerns.”

Cllr David Worden said a reduction would be a ‘huge blow to the public perception of the police force’.

He said: “Devon and Cornwall Police will be losing a valuable layer of its team. They are the people on the beat in our towns and villages.”

Cllr Mike Edmonds added: “It will take PCSOs away from the villages, which is where they need to be seen out and about.”

Former police officer Cllr John Matthews warned that although the force was planning to recruit and extra 100 police officers, it would actually need to recruit somewhere in the region of 450 officers to cover around 350 officers due to retire in the next four years.

Meanwhile, Torridge District Council has already written to Ms Hernandez to flag up concerns about the loss of PCSOs in rural areas.

The letter said: “In a rural district such as Torridge, the impact of the reduction of our PCSOs will be dramatic.

“They are a regular presence in every sense in terms of visible policing in Torridge.

“As it is, their role is hugely stretched because of the size of the areas they look after, but that said, they remain the only tangible presence whenever there is a need to deal with the varied number of what to the force are smaller incidents.

“What I wish to learn from you is how a district like Torridge will survive when these numbers are so reduced that there will simply be no lesser crime addressing/problem solving capacity available throughout such a large area of the district.

“Torridge is just about only surviving in this respect with the current numbers in place – reduce these and the landscape will be cut barren.”