Future of Leeds PCSOs in jeopardy

l
l
4
Have your say

Hundreds of PCSO roles in Leeds could be scrapped within six months - unless council bosses can come up with a £1.5m emergency bailout.

The YEP has learned that West Yorkshire Police is planning to slash 73 per cent of its majority share of the funding for the city’s 294 civilian beat bobby positions.

Leeds City Council currently co-funds 165 of the roles.

And unless it finds a way to help prop up the overall bill by £1.5m by the next financial year, Leeds will be left with just 67 PCSOs covering the whole city.

The YEP revealed exclusively in July that the entire 600-strong West Yorkshire PCSO cohort could be scrapped as under-pressure police bosses desperately try to balance the books in the wake of huge Government budget cuts.

CLICK FOR MORE YEP NEWS HEADLINES

Mark Burns Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “West Yorkshire Police’s budget will have reduced by over 30 per cent in 2016/17 with further cuts to be announced by the government in November.

“The stark reality of these government cuts means that it will be very difficult to maintain the current levels of PCSOs.”

Mr Burns-Williamson insisted that he would still safeguard a “substantial number” of more than 300 roles across West Yorkshire in his core budget and that “PCSOs play a very important role in helping to keep people safe and feeling safe”.

But he added: “The exact deployment of PCSOs and police officers will be a matter for the police and council in due course.”

A council report seen by the YEP says: “The PCC has indicated that he will continue to support joint funded PCSOs but will require a higher contribution from local authorities or other sponsoring partners.

“In return for a larger financial contribution towards PCSO costs, the PCC has committed to offering the council greater influence over the use of PCSO resources.

“Given that it is unlikely that the council will be able to increase spend at a time when it is facing further funding reductions, it is highly likely that there will be less council sponsored PCSOs from April 2016.”

West Yorkshire Police is currently undertaking a “broad demand analysis” with the help of Leeds University to determine the final future distribution of PCSOs across West Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire Police currently employs 612 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), who provide frontline assistance to uniformed officers. As well as the largest single cohort in Leeds, Wakefield employs 70 PCSOs; Kirklees 95; Calderdale 38 and Bradford 161.

The PCSOs cost the taxpayer about £5m a year to run, with the police paying 80 per cent of the bill and local authorities 20 per cent.

In Leeds, the council currently co-funds 165 PCSO posts in the city - five for every one of the 33 wards - with West Yorkshire Police paying fully for 130 additional roles in the city centre.

But the force now has to find savings of £13.4m in staff costs over the next three years to help plug an overall £163m shortfall in Government funding. A recruitment freeze is already in place and the YEP understands around 50 roles are currently unfilled.

Gridlocked traffic on Leeds Road.

Workplace ‘parking tax’ plan for Leeds - but would it stop you driving in to work?