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Wales expands PCSO numbers as 'heart of neighbourhood policing'

Welsh forces are taking on 100 centrally funded PCSOs in a signal to 'what devolved policing would look like'

Justice Minister Jane Hutt confirmed the first cohort of 100 PCSOs are now in post – and another 500 are set to follow across four forces.

The £3.7m of funding for their recruitment has come from the Welsh government’s funds as there is no allocation from the Home Office.

The minister said: “They are at the heart of our neighbourhood policing teams, acting as the link between communities and the police services that protect them. They take a problem-solving approach, developing long-term solutions that minimise adverse impacts on local communities. They are additional ears and eyes on the streets, building relationships and strengthening local intelligence.

“As well as tackling issues that arise on the ground, PCSOs are a visible presence in communities, providing confidence and pride in our local areas. They often work with the most vulnerable, providing advice and support to the general public.”

She also warned that despite Uplift, the Wales is still under-strength in all its forces.

Ms Hutt said: “By 2023, police numbers will remain below pre-austerity levels. In 2010, there were 7,369 police officers in Wales; by 2019, it had fallen to 6,898. We lost 471 police officers, and yet still we've only got 302 recruited. What has happened to these extra 20,000 police officers in England and Wales?” 

The announcement is also part of a move by the Welsh government to push for responsibility for policing to be devolved.

Ms Hutt said: “It is a sign of our priorities and how things would be different if policing were devolved, as recommended not just by the Thomas commission, but the Silk commission before it. This is a conversation I'm sure we will return to.”

It’s a very different picture in England where investment in PCSOs is mixed.

Surrey Police is losing 22 PCSOs in a bid to save money and Norfolk has axed all of its cohort to focus resources on warranted staff.

Although the announcement was welcomed by frontline officers, their leader in Wales warned they should not become a replacement for warranted officers.

Nicky Ryan said: “It’s a great story for Wales due to the different funding. PCSOs are integral to the policing family. They provide a visible service and reassurance to our communities.

“And while we acknowledge and embrace what PCSOs bring to policing, they must be used correctly and shouldn’t be used to fill officer gaps.”

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