PCSOs will not be axed in cash crisis - but police chief warns tough decisions lie ahead if funding fight is lost

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore is pictured outside a Police Investigation Centre

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore is pictured outside a Police Investigation Centre. Picture: SUPPLIED. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk's crime chief has sworn to protect support officers despite being forced into a 'tight corner' over government funding.

Tim Passmore's pledge came as Norfolk Constabulary proposes axing all 150 PCSOs to save £1.6m.

However, the police and crime commissioner admitted facing 'unpalatable decisions' if the government fails to answer his call for more money.

Last month, he warned unfair funding had jeopardised the constabulary's ability to fight crime and protect residents.

Having urged police minister Nick Hurd to review funding, Mr Passmore this week met local MPs including Suffolk Coastal's Therese Coffey and Peter Aldous for Waveney, to discuss the pressure he predicts in the absence of a fairer deal.

He wants Suffolk's funding to be, at least, proportionate to Norfolk, where he said officers deal with 12pc fewer cases.

He also wants the Home Office to cover any pay rise above 1pc; prevent reserves being further depleted; allow the budget to fully benefit from an increased tax base; and end the reduction in capital grant funding allowances.

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Mr Passmore said: 'Whatever happens, we will not make wholesale layoffs and will not get rid of PCSOs. They are a vital part of keeping Suffolk safe.'

Nor would he compromise improving the 101 phone system, rolling out body-worn cameras, or measures for remote working.

But, he warned: 'If we don't get a better deal, we will face some extremely unpalatable decisions.

'We will have to further analyse workload and demand – pointing out to other public services the disproportionate amount of time spent picking up the slack from jobs they should be doing.

'We will have to redesign services to be more effective across the board for police, social services, the mental health service and the ambulance trust. 'Otherwise, we may have to freeze recruitment on certain posts.

'We are in a very tight corner.'

Mr Passmore has proposed a 2pc council tax precept rise, having already 'trimmed to the bone', with budget reserves at a level he called critical.

In November 2012, reserves totalled £17.5m. By March 2017, the figure was £6.7m.

A pay award of anything more than the budgeted-for 1pc could send general reserves to a level below 5pc of net expenditure.

The Home Office said it had protected overall police spending in real terms since 2015.

Funding will be announced after the Budget on November 22.