A dedicated PCSO for parishes – if they pay
In January, the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, wrote to all the parish councils in the county offering them the chance to pay for a dedicated Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) for their local area. The cost to each parish would be £31,200 a year.
Commissioner Holloway told the recent Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel that this suggestion came from one of the county’s councillors.
She added that this councillor also sat on a parish council and was aware of the funds that it had available.
100% PCSO coverage can not be guaranteed
The difference between this scheme and the hours of a PCSO that some town councils, such as Leighton Buzzard and Houghton Regis, have contracted in the past, is that it would not mean sharing a PCSO on the basis of overtime but recruiting one especially.
A PCSO could not be guaranteed to spend all of their time within the parish as the “chief constable must be free to direct their officers in extremis“.
The PCC added that time spent on other duties would probably be between 10% and 20% of the PCSO’s time.
The PCC told the Police and Crime Panel that she had received some very swift and sometime very hostile responses from parishes. She said:
“It does not seem that within a week the clerks could have possibly consulted the entire council before writing to me, let alone have any degree of public consultation in their area.
“The very least I would expect is that the public in their areas would be asked what their views are.”
Marston Vale parish council responses
Cranfield Parish Council discussed the offer at its last committee meeting. It decided to ask for more detailed information from the PCC’s office.
The clerk for the Marston Moreteyne Parish Council said that it had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter yet at a council meeting. This would be done at February’s scheduled full council.
Wootton will be discussing this at the full meeting on 13 February. Ridgmont and Brogborough had not received the PCC’s letter.
Lidlington and Stewartby did not respond.
What is the difference between a PCSO and a police officer?
Cllr Alison Foster told the PCC that residents in her ward (Harrold, Bedford Borough) would prefer a warranted officer, such as a special with local knowledge.
Also, as many parishes don’t have a large amount of money, the significantly cheaper option of a special constable could be a more viable option.
Special constables have full policing powers. PCSOs do not have powers of arrest, cannot interview or process prisoners, or investigate crime. They also do not carry out the more complex and high-risk tasks that police officers perform.
The PCC responded by saying that applications for specials haven’t come forward and that the force has to work with what is available. She added that it would be a mistake to dismiss PCSOs and gave the example of PCSO Daniel James.
He has spent two years driving down homelessness, aggressive begging and street drinking in Bedford. His work, with partners, has taken 47 people off Bedford’s streets.