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Unison renews calls to recruit 8,000 more PCSOs to replace cuts

The national PCSO awards coincides with the 20-year anniversary of the role.

Unison has renewed calls to bring 8,000 more PCSOs back to the streets to replace those that have been cut. 

The figure represents a 48% reduction over the last 13 years in England and Wales- from almost 17,000 in March 2010.

The trade union further believe that cuts have negatively affected the representation of the workforce, although it retains the highest level of representation within the police workforce. 

In 2006, 15% of PCSOs identified as Black, Asian or Ethnic minority while today it’s 10%. For police officers/staff it stands at around 8%. 

Meanwhile, the Welsh government has supported its PCSOs and has seen an additional 500 since 2012. A further injection of funding in 2021 will see another 100 recruited. 

Speaking at the national PCSO award ceremony, Ben Priestley (Unison National office for police and justice) said: “PCSOs were created 20 years ago because they were needed, because the government of the day was serious about tackling a surge of crime, antisocial behaviour in our communities. And the need for that to be tackled remains no less today. 

“[They are] needed because police officers by the very nature of role cannot spend the amount of time on the beat that PCSOs do. [With the] demands of their jobs, it's simply impossible. 

“[PCSOs are] needed for police forces to do their job and to be properly there for local people, to be accessible, to be trustworthy, to be approachable and above all else to be reassuring.  

“Unison welcomes the additional funding for the police officer uplift nobody wants to stand in the way of that – but all the evidence is that only a small proportion of the 20,000 officers will join neighbourhood policing teams. 

“Today, we're here to celebrate 20 years of PCSOs, but tomorrow we want to see the work to start rebuilding the PCSO numbers and Unison wants to be part of that.” 

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper added to the concerns over PCSO numbers. 

She said: “I am really concerned about what I see as being, in many parts of the country, frankly a decimation of neighbourhood policing. 

“I see that as being deeply short-term-ist, deeply damaging to our communities but also to confidence in policing, and in the work to solve crimes, to tackle crimes, to punish criminals and to keep communities safe.

“Huge cuts in PCSOs have been a deeply damaging part of that.” 

She added that she has a challenge for Chief Constables who may be thinking about potentially cutting PCSO numbers in the face of budget pressures. 

She said: “I would say to those Chief Constables, please think again. Because neighbourhood policing, if you lose it, you lose that crucial knowledge and intelligence embedded in that community you lose that ability to fight crime in the most effective way, to maintain community confidence in the most effective way.” 

It was a call that NPCC lead for Neighbourhood Policing, DCC Claire Parmenter also echoed. Faced with the prospect of finding significant savings to make finances work, she said “PCSOs are the last place I would go”.

Meanwhile, she reflected on the work she has done in the past 18 months for her NPCC portfolio. 

One initiative has been the development of a performance framework for neighbourhood policing which is due to be in forces by February/March.

“The reason I think that’s so important is that I often get asked by Chiefs how do we quantify the difference that PCSOs are making,” she said. 

“Trust and confidence, the impact of seeing a PCSO on the street – how do you quantify that?

“I’m hoping that the performance framework will assist Chief Constables and Commissioners to solidify that value that obviously you are making across your communities.” 

Also possibly in the pipeline is a National Abstraction Policy that would aim to protect PCSOs and their time in communities. 

DCC Parmenter said: “I know you improve trust and confidence and probably when we look at policing landscape at the moment that is more important than ever - that the community see us, they feel your presence, and understand what you are doing for them.”

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