Union fears of future of PCSOs dismissed as “inaccurate and inflammatory” by South Yorkshire Police
Union officials believe plans to modernise the role of PCSOs in South Yorkshire Police could leave some with such large pay cuts they will have to find work elsewhere.
But they have been accused by the force of issuing “inflammatory and inaccurate” information about the future prospects for their PCSO members. A review of the role PCSOs play is going on at present and is expected to be concluded at the end of the month, when results will be used by force bosses to work out the best way to use PCSOs in future. They were introduced when Lord Blunkett was Home Secretary, as an answer to providing a visible uniformed presence in communities, without the cost of using more highly trained police constables. But since then, costs have risen and it is understood it costs more to employ a PCSO than an officer in the early years of their service. Officers have greater powers, including that of arrest, and more flexible working arrangements meaning they can be deployed more easily around the clock to suit the changing demands of keeping communities safe. According to the union Unite, which represents PCSOs, South Yorkshire Police have a range of options and “Several proposals envisage reducing the PCSOs service to office hours Monday to Friday service, potentially giving carte blanche to criminals outside these hours. “Unite estimates that if the proposals are adopted it will mean that PCSOs will lose £450 a month, as they will no longer receive shift pay. “The union believes that the cuts in pay will be so severe that existing officers will be forced to seek alternative employment, which will further damage community cohesion. “The PCSOs are now the key players in neighbourhood policing. They play a vital role in local communities and engage with residents, voluntary groups and councillors in tackling anti social behaviour. As well as offering reassurance to communities they also play a key role in intelligence gathering to tackle crime”. A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: “No decisions have been made and it is disappointing the union has chosen to issue inflammatory and inaccurate statements, which only serve to cause concern for our communities and PCSOs themselves.
"To suggest any of the options would cause the police presence to disappear, or that it will affect the levels of criminality outside of office hours is completely misleading, as it ignores the fact that any reduction in PCSOs will see them replaced with police officers who, unlike PCSOs, can be deployed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “The unions have been involved in this review from the outset. They are fully aware this is not a cost saving exercise and will see an enhanced neighbourhood policing function, providing the public with the service they have told us they would like to see. “We have conducted extensive consultation with staff, stakeholders and most importantly our communities who have told us, consistently, what they want and eighty-five percent of this requires the powers of a police constable. “Whilst we value the tremendous work our PCSOs do, the current balance, by which two-thirds of our neighbourhood teams are PCSOs, can never meet this need, no matter how hard they work. “We certainly do not underestimate the potential impact some of the options being considered may have on individual PCSOs, but the needs of our communities have to come first. “An average grade PCSO will earn £27,567, inclusive of the allowances they receive, compared to starting pay of a police constable of £20,456. A police officer will only earn more than a PCSO after four years’ service. When the additional training and pension costs are added police officers still remain less of a cost to the force than PCSOs, for their first two years’ service. “We hope to continue this review in a constructive manner, but the public should be reassured that any decisions we make will be in their best interests and reflective of what they have told us they want.”