Community support officers numbers expected to fall in Wales as part of 'challenging' budget cuts

  • Jeremy Vaughan, Chief Constable, South Wales Police, spoke to ITV Wales about potential cuts to the force.

There will be a reduction in the funding of Police Community Support Officers across Wales.

The Welsh Government said the amount of money it provides is "no longer sustainable" given the current economic climate.

The Chief Constable of South Wales Police said that any cuts would be "challenging" because of the "volume of work" and complexity of the force's mission.

It's feared a proposed reduction in funding could cut the PCSO workforce by a by a third. Credit: PA

£7.5m is being reprioritised from Welsh Government-funded PCSOs as it looks to tackle the funding gap it is experiencing.

Jeremy Vaughan said: "Anywhere that I might have to save money will prove challenging for me because effectively I've had a number of years of austerity where my budgets have shrunk year on year.

"If we do have to shrink the organisation, which we've had to do in the past, we're going to look to do it via natural attrition rather than making people redundant," the Chief Constable said.

The Welsh draft budget is £1.3 billion less than the point it was set in 2021 as a result of inflation.

Back in 2021, the Welsh Government said it funded around 600 PCSOs at the cost of around £22m a year.

It's feared a proposed reduction in funding could see the workforce reduced by a third.

Jeremy Vaughan said "in the last ten years the number of 999 calls that South Wales Police have received have gone up by a third and the time we spend on the phone handling the calls has doubled so that tells you a bit about the volume of work we've got and the complexity of our mission."

The Chief Constable of the force said cuts would be "challenging" because of the "volume of work" and complexity of the force's mission. Credit: ITV Wales

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans says they have "reviewed all areas of funding, including in non-devolved areas where it has stepped in".

Police Community Support Officers work with police officers and share some, but not all of their powers. They provide an important link between their communities and the police service to ensure people have the support they need.

Some of the things PCSOs support frontline policing with are stopping speeding outside our schools, reporting vandalism or reducing anti-social behaviour.

The Welsh Government draft budget says: 'We have greatly valued the work of Welsh Government-funded PCSOs in supporting the safety of local communities and recognise the role they have played supporting groups who are more likely to be victims of crime, such as people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, people who are Black Asian or from other minority ethnic backgrounds.

It added: 'It is no longer possible to sustain investment at the same level of funding, however. On this basis, we are reprioritising £7.5m from the budget for PCSOs.

'While we will still invest £15.5m in Welsh Government funded Police Community Support Officers, our policing partners will need to reshape their workforce.

"We will work closely with our partners to minimise the negative impacts as far as possible."

UNISON Cymru represents several PCCOs in Wales, responding to the Welsh draft Budget its regional secretary Jess Turner told ITV Wales: “The Welsh government has tried to protect essential services, but this statement is barely a sticking plaster. It threatens even tougher times ahead".

Ms Turner added: “This budget will have stark consequences for public services and the people of Wales.

“The increased funding for the NHS and local government will not lead to increased services. In fact, despite the cash injection, some will still be under threat.

“Wales has missed out on billions of pounds of funding from Westminster under successive Conservative governments.

“The result is that vital public services cannot be delivered to the people that need them the most.

“Westminster's tight grip on the resources Wales needs has clearly shaped this budget. But the union will do all it can to protect services and jobs. A general election cannot come soon enough."

In response, a spokesperson from the Welsh Government said: “We are refocusing funding away from non-devolved areas, which the UK Government should be funding. We stepped in to fund additional PCSOs when Home Office funding for police officers fell during austerity.

“Our budget is under immense pressure. We have made some really difficult decisions to repurpose and refocus funding across all parts of government.

“We are working with policing partners in Wales to understand the implications of the Budget and this is a conversation which will continue into the new year.”

A spokesperson for the UK Government said: “The British public want visible policing and we have delivered more police officers than ever before in our country’s history – with thousands already out protecting our streets.  

“The government is providing Welsh police forces with the resources they need with funding of £936.3m in 2024/25, an increase of up to £55.9m when compared to 2023/24. Ultimately, deployment of officers is an operational decision for Chief Constables.”

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