1. ITV Report

Suffolk Police plan to cut PCSO numbers in half

Suffolk Police are planning to cut the number of police community support offers by nearly half.

The force currently has 81 PSCOs, but under proposals published today that number will be cut to 48.

It's part of a restructuring proposal which will see 100 officers move to Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Suffolk Police plan restructuring Credit: ITV Anglia

The force says it will make sure it can respond to an increasing demand and meet the public's demand for more visible policing.

  • 97 police constables and seven sergeants will move to SNTs.
  • There would be 159 PCs and 26 sergeants in its SNTs.
  • The county has a budget for 107 PCSOs
  • There are currently 81 PCSOs employed
  • The proposal would see that cut to 48
Chief Constable Gareth Wilson Credit: ITV Anglia

"Local policing is the bedrock of our service. Moving more than 100 officers will allow us to be more effective in meeting the challenges we are facing. We have had to make some difficult decisions about the composition of our future workforce and the blend of skills and abilities we will require. However, we acknowledge the value of PCSOs and are still committed to them continuing to play a key role within communities. Although the balance of our workforce will need to change, PCSOs remain an important part in the provision of a high-quality police service in Suffolk."

– Chief Constable Gareth Wilson

Union leaders say the changes are a risk to public safety. Unison says the move to reduce the number of PCSOs is short-sighted and reckless

"PCSOs are not only a reassuring, visible presence in communities, they also gather vital intelligence that prevents crime and protects the public. Axing PCSOs means the work they do to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour will either stop altogether, or land on the lap of already overburdened officers and staff. Today's announcement is a desperate response to government cuts, which have had a devastating impact on police budgets. These cutbacks are creating a safe haven for criminals and a growing sense of fear and insecurity in communities. Suffolk Constabulary needs to urgently reverse this ill-thought-out decision, which would damage the police force and local communities."

– UNISON Eastern regional secretary Chris Jenkinson

A consultation on the plan has opened and will end on 30th August. Final decisions will be made in September with changes made by 29th October.

Suffolk Police plan to cut PCSO numbers in half Credit: ITV Anglia

"As I meet people across the county, one thing is clear; residents want as many officers as possible on the front-line. I'm pleased to say we have listened. These proposals could see an extra 104 police officers moving into the Safer Neighbourhood Teams from October this year. In order to do this some police roles have been civilianised, officers have been moved from central to local teams and regrettably the number of PCSOs will reduce, but the outcome will be more officers will be available for local policing and that's great news for Suffolk. "The Chief Constable needs to continually review his plans to ensure they are keeping pace with the pressure the Constabulary faces and that is why we're introducing some significant changes to the current policing model. "

– Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore

Suffolk Police has issued this summary of the planned changes:

  • Suffolk Constabulary is looking to increase the number of police constables in its Safer Neighbourhood Teams to 159 - an increase of 97 PCs compared to the current structure which has 62. There will also be an extra seven sergeants put into SNTs.
  • This would be part of a transition which would see 81 full-time equivalent Police Community Support Officer posts being put at risk of redundancy as we seek to reduce the number to 48 FTEs.
  • Although the current number of PCSOs is 81 FTEs the budgeted number is 107. However, to keep the number of PCSOs at risk of redundancy to a minimum, posts which have become vacant since 2017 have not been filled.
  • 27 PCSOs will work in a new link officer role - they will work with partner agencies in problem-solving initiatives.
  • Three schools' PCSOs will remain, as we are aiming to provide 18 match-funded and full-funded PCSOs (match funded allows an organisation or business association to split the cost of a PCSO with the constabulary.
  • The remaining police officers being moved to SNTs will come from a restructuring in other areas.
  • The increase of 97 PCs and seven sergeants will allow for better flexibility of workforce and increased capability to deal with peaks in demand (i.e. major incidents, events terrorism)
  • Police officers have warranted powers/ability to investigate crime/deal with disorder
  • There will be improvements to investigative structure with more localised investigation
  • Safer Neighbourhood Teams work closely with partner agencies to address the issues identified as priorities by the local community. The number of SNTs will remain the same at 18.
  • Three Neighbourhood Partnership Teams will conduct preventative work and forge close links with partners by being locally-focussed.
  • A Serious Crime Disruption team will widen its focus to address high threat and harm issues including sexual violence, exploitation and the supply of controlled drugs.