Lancashire Police could axe all 427 PCSOs

Image caption,
The chief constable said it was not a decision that had been taken lightly

Lancashire Police is considering axing all 427 police community support officers (PCSOs) from its force.

All PCSOs have been told their jobs could go by March 2011 amid increased uncertainty over future funding.

The force pays for their roles through a grant from central government or from local councils - which it said it could no longer rely on.

Unison said "lives would be devastated" by the proposed cuts and it "would not stand by and let this happen".

Ed Balls, the shadow home secretary, described the move as an "early, concerning sign" of the effect of the Spending Review on policing.

The force said it would need to save £50m over four years in the wake of the Spending Review, which equates to £220,000 a week.

'Value for money'

It has now entered a 90-day consultation with the trade unions.

Chief Constable Steve Finnigan stressed that the announcement did not mean all PCSOs were going to be made redundant.

He said there was such a "lack of clarity" over the force's financial position that it depended on the size of the government grant.

He said: "This is a hugely regrettable position for us as we place a great deal of importance on the role our PCSOs play in Lancashire and know that many members of the public feel the same way.

"This is not a decision we have taken lightly.

"However, unless we start this formal consultation process now, we run a very significant risk of finding ourselves in a position where we are putting an even greater burden on our finances, and those of the public purse, by being left with posts we simply cannot afford."

Malcolm Doherty, chair of the Lancashire Police Authority, said the "magnitude" of the financial challenges and uncertainty over future funding had left the force with "no other choice".

He added: "By making this move at this time, we will be able to react swiftly if we need to."

Maureen Le Marinel, branch secretary of Unison, said: "We understand why the constabulary has had to make this very serious and difficult announcement.

"This government has cut policing budgets so severely that the employer claims they have no other option but to make this announcement today.

"The coalition government is reneging on its election pledges to support its communities in its big society.

"Let's be clear PCSOs are value for money. They are the visible presence on our streets dealing with local crime, anti-social behaviour and gathering vital intelligence."

'Really concerning'

The Labour Party warned that more police forces were likely to follow Lancashire's lead in the wake of government cuts.

"This is a really concerning early sign of the impact of the government's Spending Review on policing in our country," said Mr Balls.

"The government's plan to cut police funding by 20% will be impossible to achieve without major cuts to the number of police officers and PCSOs in every part of our country.

"By failing to fight the corner of the police in the spending review negotiations, the home secretary is taking big risks with the safety of the public and our communities."

Shortly before the Spending Review was announced, Mr Finnigan warned the impending cuts would have a dramatic effect on frontline services.

He said that up to 1,000 police jobs could go in the next four years, but the force has not confirmed whether the PCSO job cuts would be in addition to this.

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