The number of police community support officers in South Yorkshire is set to be slashed in a move described as the ‘death of neighbourhood policing’.
Trade union Unison claims South Yorkshire Police is having to cut its number of PCSOs from 280 to 150 after major cuts to its budget.
Ian Armitage, of Unison’s South Yorkshire Police branch, said: “We’ve been cut to the bone already and now the arm is being cut off.
“When the losses come this will be the death of neighbourhood policing as we know it.
“PCSOs are out chatting to people making sure they feel reassured and are first on the scene, they do an excellent job.”
One current PCSO, who declined to be named, described the situation as ‘dire’.
He said: “I left my higher paid job for the police because I wanted to help people and make a difference in my community.
“We’ve been told that when the cuts come we will be expected to pick up the work-load and there is already a lot to do – police haven’t got time to patrol the streets.”
The PCSO, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the force had expected a lot more to take voluntary redundancy and believes that option has now passed.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “The force is currently facing major budget cuts which have already resulted in reductions in staff numbers.”
“It is inevitable that there will be a reduction in PCSO numbers and we have relayed this to our staff. We are working hard to minimise the impact of any decrease in staffing levels.
“We will continue to work closely with our PCSOs to keep them fully informed.”
Sheffield resident Dave Gautier is full of praise for PCSOs and said cuts to their numbers would be a disaster.
He has praised their work in tackling anti-social behaviour in and around Darnall, where he lives.
The 59-year-old, of Stovin Drive, said: “If you get rid of PSCO’s you might as well pack in policing all together, it’s a disaster for areas like mine.
“They reassure this estate and people can trust them, know them by name and are the eyes and ears to pass on information to officers.”
The force had hoped to reduce numbers to 150 PCSOs by 2020 from ‘natural wastage’ through people leaving and retiring.
However, Mr Armitage said more ‘savage cuts’ expected in today’s emergency budget were likely to accelerate job losses.
Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP, said: “As a former Special Constable myself, I know how much people value seeing a bobby on the beat and want a visible police presence.
“These cuts will seriously impact the ability of our police to protect our communities.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Police reform is working and crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010.
“There is no question the police still have the resources to do their important work.
“What matters is how officers are deployed, not how many of them there are in total.”