Plans are being drawn up that could see £200,000 cut from the budget for police community support officers in Leeds.
Leeds City Council, which currently pays 30 per cent of the costs of 165 PCSOs, is considering the plan as part of its budget cuts.
The move, to slash the funding by 13 per cent, will send out a message that the city is going “soft on crime”, a senior opposition politician has warned.
Coun Andrew Carter, Conservative group leader, today hit out at the proposals to cut a “valued frontline service”.
Speaking ahead of a debate at today’s full council meeting, Coun Carter said: “Many people will be asking why the council is looking to cut this valued frontline service. Surely there are other areas that could be targeted for this saving? This proposed cut could see a reduction in police protection for some wards. This sends out a message that the council is soft on crime.”
PCSOs in Leeds operate on a five-per-ward basis. Coun Carter will today urge the council to “re-affirm its commitment to fund five PCSOs in every ward in Leeds in 2014/15”.
Coun Peter Gruen, the authority’s executive member for neighbourhoods and chairman of Safer Leeds, said: “Despite losing over 20 per cent of its funding over the last three years, the council has until now maintained its full support to PCSOs.”
He admitted that “no service is immune to cost pressures in the current climate”, but stressed the PCSO plan was still being consulted on. “We are actively working with the (police and crime) commissioner to find ways protect the numbers of PCSOs in Leeds,” he added. “The consultation will also consider how PCSOs are distributed in relation to differing levels of crime”.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson, said he was “in discussions” with Leeds council about funding for PCSOs. However, he stressed: “I have ringfenced £17.8m in my budget for three years to keep PCSO funds at the same level. So funding from my office has remained and will remain the same because I am committed to protecting frontline policing and protecting the levels of PCSOs in our communities.”