Norfolk Police Authority urged to raise council tax precept to maintain PCSO numbers in county

Members of the police authority have been urged to raise the council tax precept rather than accept a one-off payment from the government to allow Norfolk's ever-decreasing thin blue line to be maintained.

Norfolk Police Authority, which is due to be replaced by a controversial Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in November, will meet later this month to set a budget for 2012/13 which will be inherited by the incoming PCC.

Ahead of the meeting, on February 21, members of the authority face a dilemma of whether to raise the precept or accept a one-off grant from the government, equating to the money it would make from a 3pc rise in council tax, if it freezes its share at last year's level.

Government cuts mean Norfolk Constabulary must make about �24.5m of savings over the next three years, a process that will see a total reduction of 120 officers and the potential loss of up to 45 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

Simon Bailey, deputy chief constable, said raising the precept would help ensure the level of PCSOs, whose numbers have been reduced from 280 to 260, could be maintained.

He said: 'We've been offered a grant by the Home Office but the problem is it's one-off, whereas the precept rise goes into our budget year on year which means we're able to recruit numbers based on it whereas a one-off we can't.

'We've made representations to the police authority to raise the level of precept to allow us to maintain our PCSO numbers who are so critical to the work that we're achieving in community engagement, tackling anti-social behaviour and the Safer Schools Partnership.'

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Mr Bailey was talking after a meeting of the police authority's professional standards and human resources committee, which revealed an intake of 10 PCSOs had been scheduled for March this year.

Yesterday's meeting, held at Norfolk Police Authority's meeting room at Wymondham, also heard there would be an intake of 48 police officers in the next financial year to maintain the 1,530 officers the force is being reduced to.

The Safer Schools Partnership scheme has seen full time officers and PCSOs placed in more than 20 schools across Norfolk where they use problem-solving approaches to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Stephen Bett, police authority chairman, said: 'We've had representations from the chief constable about what he would like us to do and we will make the decision on February 21.'

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