'No guarantees' on future of Lancashire PCSOs

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

The future of Lancashire's Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) is unclear, despite the government's decision to retain their funding.

The force's PCSOs were told their jobs could go by March 2011 amid uncertainty over future funding.

On Monday, Police Minister Nick Herbert told the Commons that grants which fund PCSOs would continue until 2012-13.

The Unison union hailed the statement, but the force said there could be no guarantees at this stage.

Lancashire Police has previously warned it needed to save £50m over four years in the wake of the Spending Review and without government funding it would not be able to find any additional money to cover the funding gap for PCSOs - which would amount to £220,000 per week.

It announced that all 427 of its PCSOs might be sacrificed and entered a 90-day consultation with the trade unions, a decision Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said had not been taken lightly.

On Monday, Mr Herbert pledged to ring fence 90% of the Neighbourhood Policing Fund grant for PCSOs, which he said would contribute up to 75% of their salary costs.

"The remaining 25% will need to be match-funded by the police, councils, businesses and other organisations," he told the Commons.

Unison, which has been lobbying MPs and politicians over the issue since October, said the announcement meant the "majority" of PCSOs would be safe from redundancy.

'No guarantees'

Maureen Le Marinel, Lancashire branch secretary, said: "This is the first stage of our campaign the second stage will be targeting Lancashire's councils and other partners who part fund some 170 plus PCSOs across Lancashire and we now want to see them make the right decision."

Ms Le Marinel said those officers were funded by local authorities, parish councils, schools and PCTs across the county.

"So I would urge the public to ask their local authorities if their PCSO will remain or disappear and tell them they want them to remain," she added.

In a statement, a force spokesman said: "Whilst this provides some longer than expected certainty for the Constabulary and its staff, the same does not apply to local authorities whose funding for PCSOs is not ring-fenced in the same way and so is not protected.

"We will continue to work closely with local partners to express the importance of PCSOs to our policing style but there can be no guarantees at this stage while all public sector organisations work through what the impact of the CSR is on their budgets."

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