Taxpayers to pay community officers bill

PUBLISHED: 07:45 28 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:06 22 October 2010

Council tax payers will be forced to foot the future costs of the government's community policing initiative, Norfolk Police Authority warned.

Council tax-payers will be forced to foot the future costs of the government's community policing initiative, Norfolk Police Authority warned yesterday.

The Home Office has contributed an extra £1.09m on top of an original grant of £1.05m to speed up the introduction of police community support officers (PCSOs) across the county. PCSOs are uniformed neighbourhood officers with some policing powers, such as the ability to issue fixed penalty notices.

While welcoming this funding, a meeting of the Norfolk Police Authority was told that once this has been spent the force must meet annual costs of at least £500,000 - an increase of 1.2pc in the force's council tax precept.

At the same meeting, members discussed plans to cut jobs across the force because of forecasts that government funding in the coming year will increase below inflation.

Authority member Harry Humphrey said: "The government has grabbed headlines about PCSOs, but in effect all they are giving us is an extra half a year's funding. There is no money for accommodation and little money for training.

"We value and welcome this initiative but there is concern that the government is promising all this wonderful work but police authorities are expected to pick it up and fund it."

Meanwhile, the authority has approved a strategy aimed at reducing costs in preparation for an increase of just 2.7pc in government funding for 2007. The force estimates that it needs an increase of about 6pc to meet existing commitments.

One recommendation of this strategy is that up to 40 jobs be cut by April next year. It is hoped this can be achieved by reviewing vacant posts.

Assistant chief officer Rupert Birtles said: "We cannot just wait and see what happens. We may get to the point where funding is four or five million pounds below what we need. It is only sensible that we identify our priorities now."

After the meeting, authority chairman Stephen Bett said the public demand for PCSOs was clear but said there was "serious uncertainty" about Home Office funding. "In the long-term it is unclear which direction the Home Office is going to move in," he added.

The new funding means that by the end of this year the number of PCSOs in Norfolk will double to 138 - a target originally set for April next year. This will rise to 189 by April.

In Suffolk there will be 142 PCSOs by April 2007 at a cost of £1.72m and in Cambridgeshire there will be 195 costing £1.98m.

Norfolk chief constable Carole Howlett welcomed the expansion , saying said she did not envisage problems recruiting PCSOs as increasing numbers have expressed an interest in the post in recent weeks.

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