Police force warns of impact of budget cuts
Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter
A senior police office has warned of “significant pressures” on the employment of community support officers (PCSOs), due to budget cuts.
Gwent Police hires 172 full-time equivalent PCSOs, supporting neighbourhood policing by carrying out patrols, targeting antisocial behaviour, and liaising with the community.
According to assistant chief officer Nigel Stephens, the Welsh Government’s budget for the extra PCSOs it funds has been slashed by around £600,000.
He said this is “placing significant pressures on local funding if the commissioner and [the] force are to maintain the current level” of PCSOs – and said it is “raising questions over the affordability of future planned growth”.
Policing is not devolved to Wales, but the Welsh Government funds extra PCSOs through its social justice department’s brief for community safety.
In Gwent, some 121 PCSOs are funded in this way.
A spokesman for the Welsh Government confirmed it was “releasing some funding” from its PCSO budgets this year, and was “working closely with forces to monitor the impact on each individual force in Wales”.
The cuts were part of a “prudent plan to respond to the extraordinary financial pressures facing public services”, the spokesman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
The Welsh Government, he added, had “done all we can to plug the gap of Home Office cuts to policing since 2011” and was “proud of our record of supporting PCSOs and promoting community safety in Wales”.
In light of an expected real-terms budget shortfall of around £900 million, reported by the Welsh Government earlier in 2023, the spokesperson added: “We are preparing our draft budget [for next year] and, while we will do all we can to continue to protect essential services, the chancellor’s short-sighted Autumn Statement makes a difficult process even harder.”
ACO Stephens, writing in the recently-published Chief Constables’ Statement of Accounts for 2022/23, said Gwent Police had a “strong track record of operating within funding constraints and will therefore continue to manage reductions in real term funding from the government and public of Gwent”.
He added: “The [police and crime] commissioner and chief constable remain focused on delivering a new generation of savings schemes and maintaining a detailed schedule of planned work to review functions and departments, balanced against the operational policing needs of Gwent.”
A spokesman for the Home Office defended the UK Government’s record on policing.
“The British public want visible policing and we have delivered more police officers than ever before in our country’s history – with thousands already out protecting our streets,” he told the LDRS.
“The government is providing Welsh police forces with the resources they need with funding of £863.8m in 2023/24, an increase of up to £37.1m when compared to 2022/23.
“Ultimately, deployment of officers is an operational decision for chief constables.”
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