Neighbourhood policing needs to be protected, UNISON national officer Ben Priestley declared today as the union published its third report on the effect policing cuts are having on police community support officers in England and Wales.
The survey shows that government cuts continue to take their toll on the ability of police to deliver community policing where it matters – on the streets for local people.
Responses to the survey of UNISON’s PCSO members across England and Wales, undertaken this month, show that:
- 74% have seen PCSO numbers reduce in their neighbourhood policing team;
- 78% have seen fewer community beat police officers in their team;
- 57% of PCSOs have stopped performing core neighbourhood policing duties and have been redeployed to work which keep them off the beat;
- 77% of PCSOs say that their neighbourhood policing team has become less visible since they started working as a PCSO;
- 61% are more stressed than they were when they started;
- 53% of PCSOs now regularly have to deal with work that should be the responsibility of other agencies such as the health service or social services.
As one PCSO told UNISON: “There is no time for community policing anymore.”
Mr Priestley said PCSOs across England and Wales “do a great job to keep communities safe – but government cuts to police budgets since 2010 have fallen disproportionately on neighbourhood policing.
“One consequence of those cuts is that 30% of PCSO jobs have been lost since over the last six years.”
He added that UNISON’s survey “paints a picture of the damage which the cuts have caused to neighbourhood policing that should worry anyone – politician or public – who reads it.”
Mr Priestley praised the Welsh government for bucking the trend and investing in police community support officers, but “our PCSO members report that community policing is fast disappearing from the streets of England and everybody should be worried at the result.
“PCSOs are no longer able to carry out proactive community engagement and are being pulled away from patrolling the beat to fill in for police officers whose numbers have also been cut as a result of the government cuts.
“With police and crime commissioner elections due to take place next week on 5 May,” he said, the report “is a timely reminder to everyone that neighbourhood policing is worth protecting and worth voting for.”