Budget Cuts Could Mean The End Of London's Police Community Support Officers

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 32 months ago
Budget Cuts Could Mean The End Of London's Police Community Support Officers
Photo by champnet from the Londonist Flickr pool

Budget pressures will mean cuts to police services over the next few years.

The Treasury is cutting the Home Office budget, which is where the bulk of the Metropolitan Police's funding comes from. The Met has already had to save 20% of its budget — £500m — between 2013 and 2016, and now it looks like the force could lose up to 43% more. According to the BBC, around £800m in savings need to be found by 2019, and it's officers that look to be in line to go.

The Met has already closed down and sold off police stations, including New Scotland Yard for £370m. Now, if rumours are to be believed, half or all Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) could go. Each ward used to have two or three, but changes a few years ago mean some wards have just one. There are 1,017 PCSOs across London; all could be axed, or numbers reduced to one per ward.

PCSOs are civilian staff who are at the forefront of community policing. The idea is to use them as a visible presence and let warranted officers get on with solving and preventing crime. If they're axed, the concern is that relations between the police and public may suffer, that anti social behaviour will increase and that (more expensive) police officers will be more stretched.

The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime has yet to respond to our request for comment, though it's hardly surprising as this information isn't part of a signed off plan and is leaking out of the Met like a rusty sieve. What is clear, however, is that these budget cuts are serious and will inevitably change the face of London's police.

Joanne McCartney, Labour's police spokesperson on the London Assembly and Chair of the Assembly's Police and Crime Committee, said:

Cuts of 43% would absolutely decimate London’s police force. It’s inconceivable that the Metropolitan police would be able to survive in its current form if this scale of cut were enforced. We’ve already seen the demise of local neighbourhood policing in favour of a cheaper area based approach. With crime beginning to rise in the capital, and an ever growing population, it’s not clear how much of the budget will actually be left to police the streets of the capital. This cannot, and should not, be acceptable to the Home Secretary. It’s time she came clean about the scale of these cuts and the impact they will have.

Last Updated 28 September 2015

Caute

PCSOs were introduced by New Labour as a cost saving exercise - they never had the power of arrest and were a laughing stock in the community, only really good for showing tourists the way. The model came from the Netherlands who called their PCSOs 'community officers' and they were regarded in the same way as we did here. In Camden, street wardens were introduced at the same time as PCSOs and did exactly the same job but knew the area better. There are still some wardens around - and very friendly they are too; they deal with the homeless and drug users but generally without the aggression. PCSOs were always a laughing stock - with their 3 months training and no qualifications and lack of powers, their demise is no loss.

Fred Smith

Whatever the merits of PCSOs, all the evidence seem to point to visible police presence being key to crime reduction, and it's sad that that we are cutting investment in this. There is a difference between responsible management of the economy (which may involve increases and decreases in deficit as appropriate to the situation) and George Osborne's glamour project of deficit reduction, which even he is neither committed to or successful at, but has become an excuse for kicking whoever the government feels like targeting, which includes our police, since Theresa May (Thatcher minus the charisma) alienated them to the point of opposition.