The Council Executive Board met yesterday to to seek Members’ agreement to the revised Agreement between the Council, The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for North Wales and The Chief Constable of North Wales Police for the provision of Police Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) in Wrexham.
It was proposed that the Council will fund the PCSO’s from 1st April 2013 to March 2016, contributing 25% of the salary costs. £356,150 is budgeted for the coming year. This is continuing the arrangement that has been in place since 2010.
At the beginning of the meeting Cllr Hugh Jones said: “Community policing plays an important part in community safety. There is no doubt about it that community partnerships have been key in the reduction of crime. There is an important relationship between pcsos, communities and town councils. Town councils are not the place where pcsos come and deliver a set of stats and go away, this agreement will see that change.”
One of the main issues raised throughout the meeting was the 80% ‘visibility’ rate of the PCSO’s and the risk of their ‘abstraction’, that is to say being taken away from their wards as this could impact on the levels of flexibility and ‘tenure’ in the PCSO’s. However it was agreed that it was important for each ward to have their own PCSO and ‘familiar face’ on the streets. With a suggestion that the PCSO’s should stay in a ward for 12 months, as it takes a ‘while to help build up links’.
Cllr Carole O’Toole said: “PCSO’s do need to spend the majority of time in their own ward” and that “The system breaks down if that doesn’t happen.”
With regards to the issue of tenure by the PCSO’s and their moving of wards, Cllr Hugh Hones said: “North Wales Police have an agreement on the minimum length of time when they sign up. If abstractions are becoming an issue it will become part of performance monitoring on a quarterly basis.”
Cllr Geoff Lowe raised further concerns about the abstraction within the wards saying: “If we do have a partnership I would like to know what is happening. My constituents notice there absence all too often.”
Cllr Hugh Jones said: “The problem is trying to build abstraction up to a reasonable level. This is a new agreement. If it is not working in 12 months I’ll be the first to say.”
One of the suggestions to combat the levels of abstraction and the location of each wards PCSO was via a weekly rota, with Cllr Geoff Lowe stating that they have been ‘helpful in the past’. This would be particularly useful for those who live in larger wards, who’s PCSO’s may be in the area but not actually visible. Cllr Hugh Jones gave his assurance that everyone will get the rotas.
The discussion of abstraction also saw Cllr John Pritchard asking for assurance that the PCSO’s that cover rural locations won’t have their PSCO withdrawn due to low crime figures. In response to this Hugh said that all rural wards will have a PCSO; and that during the agreement will not be removed on a permanent basis.
Cllr Rodney Skelland queried the costing in the report, saying that the figures indicated a possible pay of £30,000 per PCSO cost therefore the figures were £100,000 ‘out’. It was pointed out that the £30,000 figure likely includes ‘on costs’ such as enhancements paid in the salaries such as overtime, and as the agreement covers 2013/14 it was possible it also covers a pay award.
Cllr Skelland was abruptly told “If you wanted to ask a complex question you should have given notice”, Mr Skelland replied he had only seen the documents that morning so was unable to do so.
The powers of a PCSO were also raised, with some Members asking if they could handle Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for parking and dog fouling. The meeting was told that one hundred new FPN booklets had been printed and would be with PCSO’s shortly, however they did not have the power to give tickets for parking.
“The powers for PCSOs are laid down by Parliament, the Chief Constable then grants powers to PCSOs. All powers available are granted to North Wales Police PCSO’s”.
You can read our report from last week here.