The Police and Commissioner for North Wales has warned he will not “fill the gap” financially if Wrexham Council press ahead with proposals to axe nine PCSOs.
Last month Wrexham.com reported that the scrapping of PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers)) funding featured as part of Wrexham Council’s ‘Difficult Decisions’ budget consultation.
The part funding arrangement for the nine PCSOs between Wrexham Council and North Wales Police has been in place for several years. The funding agreement is in place until March 2019, however as part of the budget proposals it is recommended this is brought forward to October 2018.
It is estimated the proposals could generate savings of approximately £140,000 in 2018/19 and a further £140,000 in 2019/20. If the funding cannot be found elsewhere, there is a risk that the number of PCSOs in Wrexham would be reduced.
However North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has now warned he will not “fill the gap” financially if Wrexham Council press ahead with its proposals.
The commissioner has now written to all six county councils in North Wales asking them to let him know about any planned cuts that would have an impact on crime and disorder issues.
Mr Jones, who is also a former Wrexham councillor, said: “Wrexham Council announced that one of their saving proposals was to cut PCSOs because they fund over and above what North Wales Police provide.
“Historically they have paid extra for nine PSCOs for the county borough and they are proposing to save £140,000 by getting rid of them.
“This is not the first time it has happened. We had a debate last year with Denbighshire councillors who wanted me to put more money into CCTV in Denbighshire having made massive cuts in their own contribution.”
He added: “If local authorities are going to make cuts in the community safety budgets in their authorities then they shouldn’t be expecting me to be filling the gap because the money comes from the same place at the end of the day.
“I am also working to a reduced budget so this would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Mr Jones is now calling for the creation of an ‘early intervention hub’ to provide more support for those people so the underlying causes can be addressed to reduce harm and reduce demand at the same time.
The Police and Crime Commissioner has explained he is concerned the police are increasingly “having to pick up the pieces” because of cuts in other services. In many cases, he says, the police are doing the work of other agencies for them – including dealing with vulnerable people with complex problems, including homelessness and problematic drug use.
It was, said Mr Jones, vital at a time of austerity to work more effectively because the police could not and should not be expected to plug the gaps caused by spending cuts imposed by local councils and other public bodies.
He said: “A lot of time the police are having to pick up the pieces, and then when something goes wrong it’s our fault, even though that we’re actually working on behalf of another agency that haven’t got the resources in place.
“I’m determined that things like this need to stop and that local authorities in particular cannot rely on the police and crime commissioner budget to fill the gaps they are creating.
“Mental health is an example where we use an inordinate amount of resources to protect people suffering from a mental illness because of a lack of community psychiatric services
“The people who cause the greatest demand not just on the police, but on the fire service, on the ambulance service, on the hospital, local authority and social services are the repeat victims.
“They are vulnerable people with complex needs and if we can address those needs we can reduce the demands that they create.”