Police and Crime Commissioner warns PCSOs need protecting under current review

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has backed Chief Constable Stephen Watson’s plans to improve the county’s neighbourhood policing teams – but has warned that any PCSOs affected by a current review should have their salaries protected.

By Paul Whitehouse
Tuesday, 09 April, 2019, 14:16
Dr Alan Billings

Neighbourhood policing was left on the shoulders of PCSOs – civilians without the arrest powers of police officers – after the South Yorkshire force contracted on cost grounds under a previous Chief Constable.

That was regarded as a mistake and Mr Watson re-introduced the service after his appointment in 2016, a move which has been credited with helping his force improve its performance.

A review is now in progress for the future direction of the service, which could change the balance between numbers of police officers and PCSOs working on neighbourhood teams.

How that ends up is an operational decision for Mr Watson, but PCC Dr Alan Billings – who appointed the Chief Constable on the understanding he would re-introduce neighbourhood staff – has offered his opinions as part of the consultation process.

He has suggested that if some PCSOs retrain as police officers, a possibility is the force is recruiting heavily, they should be allowed to return to the neighbourhood where they have previously worked as a PCSO, should they want to.

Dr Billings has also suggested police need to be flexible over shift patterns, with the Unite union raising fears PCSOs would become a 9am to 5pm service, with staff stripped of shift allowances.

In his submission to the review, he said: “PCSOs have registered concern about their own circumstances. The Chief Constable has stated he is not planning to make staff redundant and this needs to be clearly stated in any final options.

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“There is also uncertainty surrounding the possibility of reducing or withdrawing allowances or salary levels and the fear of cliff edges.

“The Chief Constable has made it clear that this is not a cost savings exercise, and any savings found will be re-invested in Neighbourhood Teams, so that overall numbers never fall.

“In achieving this, I ask that SYP consider protecting salaries for a period or tapering an impact salary or allowance changes might have on individual PCSOs.”

Consultations over the review are expected to go on to the end of April.

The review sets out to address an imbalance which has developed between the county's four policing districts, on the duties expected from PCSOs.

That is regarded as a result of the previous regime, where they were left to work in communities without support from police officer colleagues.