PCSOs at risk in row over cash

Police visit: Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw exchanges views with Garstang Mayor Coun Sandra Perkins, watched by Garstang PCSO John Holland
Police visit: Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw exchanges views with Garstang Mayor Coun Sandra Perkins, watched by Garstang PCSO John Holland
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The future of some of Wyre’s Police Community Support Officer jobs could be under threat, after Wyre Council said it could no longer afford to carry on part-funding the posts.

The council’s cabinet meets today (February 20) to consider its budget for the year ahead.

Faced with a 20% cut in Government grant over the next two years and the ruling group’s pledge to freeze the Wyre Council tax, councillors will be asked to make a decision on future funding of the district’s PCSOs.

The council says it has spent more than £1m on part-funding the service over the past six years, but has no provision or reserve to contribute to costs this coming year. It currently part funds 11 posts and gave prior notice in January 2011 that its contribution would end on March 31 this year.

The council has also provided accommodation in the civic centre bungalow free of charge for the Poulton PCSO service and made a van available for transport.

But a report being presented tonight advises charging around £5,000 for the rent of the building. It says the vehicle, although having 60,000 miles on its clock, could be returned to the council fleet, so saving funds and still have a useful life.

Garstang currently has two PCSOs, Over Wyre one and Poulton one with two posts vacant in Knott End and Poulton.

Council leader Coun Peter Gibson is angry that whilst Wyre has helped meet the PCSO costs for so many years, other councils have not had to dig so deep. He says a recent consultation showed that “people value PCSOs but thought police should pay for them.”

He says the responsibility for funding the service must now lie with the police service and costs should come from the police authority precept.

The funding row has put him head to head with fellow Wyre councillor and Lancashire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw.

Mr Grunshaw said the Council’s recommendation was “disappointing” and says it would see the loss of a number of PCSOs from the area. He said he had agreed to continue match-funding PCSO posts where councils continued to contribute.

He added: “I don’t believe turning down funding from the constabulary for these additional posts is the right route to take.”

“I do sympathise with the council’s financial situation as clearly Lancashire Constabulary also finds itself in challenging financial circumstances.

“The meeting to decide the future for Wyre’s part-funded PCSOs has yet to be held.

“Therefore, I feel it would be inappropriate for me to comment further about the future of these positions in Wyre until a final decision has been made.”