Concern over falling PCSO numbers in Leeds

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Support: Cllr Stewart Golton

By David Spereall & John Baron

Further cuts to police community support officers (PCSOs) in West Yorkshire will leave communities further exposed to crime, it’s been claimed.

Stewart Golton, the leader of Leeds’ Liberal Democrat group, said PCSOs were “essential”, in light of rising crime levels after the Covid pandemic.

His views have been separately echoed by Calverley & Farsley councillor Amanda Carter (Cons).

West Yorkshire Police has recruited more than 40 community support officers since the start of April last year, but retirements and unfilled vacancies will leave the force with an overall reduction this year.

Speaking at a meeting of senior Leeds councillors last week, Councillor Golton suggested this would leave the region with its lowest number of PCSOs since 2015.

By contrast, full-time police officers are being recruited en masse in line with national targets, with West Yorkshire soon likely to have its highest number of frontline crime-fighters since 2010.

A senior member of the force denied PCSOs were being “singled out” for cuts and claimed he intended to keep Leeds’ current numbers at the same level.

But speaking at an executive board meeting, Councillor Golton said: “I’ve been told by my permanent police officers on my neighbourhood team that PCSOs are an essential prt of their team, in gathering information on a neighbourhood level.”

Addressing Leeds District Commander, Superintendent Steve Dodds, Coun Golton asked: “Are you chasing the full-time police target numbers at the expense of the support staff underneath them on the streets?

“And is this a strategic policy, or is it something you think is a necessary cut to make right now?”

Supt Dodds said recruiting more full-time officers above PCSO level was a “non-negotiable”, but admitted “constraints” remained on police budgets.

“I’d counter the point that PCSOs are being singled out and used as the method of finding those reductions,” he said. “That’s not the case at all.”

“We are absolutely committed to neighbourhood policing.

“It’s my intention to maintain the level of PCSO deployment that I’ve got. I’ve got a budget to work to and those numbers will continue.

“I see PCSOs as an absolutely vital and important part of policing.”

Councillor Amanda Carter, a member of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, said she was disappointed to see the number of PCSOs was expected to be just 520 by the end of March, below the budgeted figure of 565.

Cllr Carter also questioned figures which showed an apparent fall in anti-social behaviour, pointing out there had been changes to the recording of anti-social behaviour and crime.

Councillor Amanda Carter (Conservative, Calverley and Farsley) said: “PCSOs are at the heart of neighborhood policing and play a vital role in keeping our communities safe. It’s therefore hugely disappointing to see that the number of PCSOs have fallen below the budgeted figure of 565 and are expected to be 520 by the end of March this year, 45 PCSOs is a significant figure.

“The Mayor and Deputy Mayor are responsible for deploying resources appropriately with the budget they have, so at the Police & Crime Panel I asked for assurances the Government funded police officers would be recruited to the target figure and that PCSOs would not fall any lower, which were given. I hope this isn’t an empty promise like the bus service the Mayor is in charge of that are reportedly in a worse state than they have been for 40 years.”

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