Clive Lewis: Government cuts forcing our Chief Constable into a very difficult choice

Clive Lewis meets PCSOs. Picture Archant.

Clive Lewis meets PCSOs. Picture Archant. - Credit: Archant

Since 2010 the government has slashed Norfolk Constabulary's budget by an astonishing £30 million.

Now Theresa May has announced a further £10 million of cuts, meaning Norfolk Constabulary is having to make even more cuts to frontline policing. Chief constable Simon Bailey is proposing that Norfolk becomes the first county in England to abolish Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), making all 150 redundant. Seven police stations may also close – four of which are in Norwich.

I was appalled when Lorne Green, the Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner, said recently he 'would not employ PCSOs if he had all the money in the world'. Our PCSOs in Norfolk have been working diligently for years and research conducted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Criminology concludes they are extremely good value for money.

I am out and about surveying residents on their thoughts on these proposals and what impact it will have on crime in our communities. I fear these changes will mark a complete end to the deterrence-focused community policing model and a shift to a reactive mode of operating. The changes will almost inevitably mean the end of regular beat policing and the withdrawal of police officers stationed in certain schools.

I understand the chief constable is in a very difficult position. Huge government cuts in funding have meant he has to choose between investing in the tackling of niche areas of crime that are on the rise, or taking away the police presence in our communities.

PCSOs are crucial to keeping our communities safe. They deal with the time-consuming tasks that police officers do not have time to do alongside investigating serious crimes. I fear the proposals could see a rise in anti-social behaviour, making our communities less pleasant and less safe places to live in.

PCSOs are also key to protecting vulnerable persons in our communities. Protecting them from exploitation by manipulative drug dealers keen to use their homes as 'crack dens', and performing welfare checks when they receive reports such a person is suicidal.

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Our local police force is working as hard as they can within the limited resources given to them by the government. They put their personal safety on the line to keep us safe and bring perpetrators of crimes to justice. They deserve a huge amount of respect. However the slash-and-burn approach of Theresa May to police funding is making their jobs increasingly difficult and stressful, and our communities less safe from crime.

I have met with Simon Bailey to raise my concerns re these proposals. I will submit all survey responses I receive to the official consultation. I will fight hard in Parliament to save our PCSOs in Norfolk.

However I am the sole Labour voice representing Norfolk in Parliament. It cannot be right that Norfolk should be the only county in England to lose its PCSOs. In Chloe Smith Norwich has an MP who is a government minister. Norfolk has three more government ministers as MPs. These MPs should be banging on Theresa May's door, calling for a better financial deal for Norfolk's police force. I will always be Norwich's voice in Westminster, not Westminster's voice in Norwich.