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Met 'won't scrap PCSOs' despite disappointment over capital city funding

Chancellor's decision to protect the budget means plans to get rid of all PCSOs are no longer being considered
Published - 17/12/2015 By - Helena Hickey - Police Oracle

The country’s largest force will not be scrapping any of its neighbourhood PCSOs despite receiving less funding than it had hoped.

Earlier this year, the Met suggested all of its PCSOs could be scrapped as part of plans to save £800 million by 2019, but today Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe said this no longer needed to happen thanks to the chancellor’s decision to protect the budget.

“We will not remove any PCSOs from neighbourhoods and if we can find ways of getting more there over the next few weeks we will,” he told the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee.

“There are currently 649 PCSOs in neighbourhoods and we can now guarantee they will remain there and if we need to make savings we can make them elsewhere.  If the number reduces when someone retires or becomes a police officer which is more common, we will recruit so the number remains at that level.”

Both the commissioner and the deputy mayor for policing welcomed the chancellor’s announcement, but said it was “disappointing” that the National and International Capital City grant – which it gets to reflect the extra resources needed to police London  had not increased.

“Last year we got £174 million and this year we put in a bid for £340 million because that is what we spend,” said Stephen Greenhalgh.

“But now we have seen that we are not getting any extra. The government accepted the principle that we are spending £340 million but have decided not to pay for it.

“Overall things are still a lot better than we originally planned but they are disappointing relative to where we thought we had got to.”

Sir Bernard said the figures – revealed halfway through the meeting – did not change what he had said, including guarantees around dedicated ward officers.

“We will keep one PC and one PCSO per ward as a minimum and I am hoping that I can make a positive announcement in February about how that might be developed in the future,” he said.

“The feedback from borough commanders has been that some people are missing the old contact with two or three specific people and I think there is a clever way that we can improve what we are doing but we just need to get the number sorted out.”

He added that other money saving ideas – such as discussions around the number of ranks and outsourcing – would continue to be looked at.

“It would be foolish to waste public money just because we have more in the bank,” he said.

“We are still looking at things like should we keep the same levels of hierarchy. We are a big organisation with 11 tiers which has been helpful and we have needed that resilience, but should we maintain that in the future? Organisations of our size normally have six tiers.”

Labour’s London Assembly Policing Spokesperson, Joanne McCartney AM welcomed the decision not to scrap PCSOs.

“PCSOs are the eyes and ears of the police, they play an incredibly important intelligence gathering role and scrapping them entirely would have been an absolute disaster,” she said.

PCSOs have faced months of uncertainty as a result of the Government's threatened funding cuts. I am glad our campaign has helped to prevent these cuts and reassure PCSOs that their role is highly valued.”

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