Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are welcoming their success in proposing the reprieve of 9 Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) posts that were earmarked to be cut in the coming year. South Gloucestershire Council is having to cut its spending by £80 million over the decade, and to implement those cuts councillors were faced with having to slash £277k from the council’s community safety and antisocial behaviour work from the financial year beginning in April 2015.
The council recently consulted on a range of options on what to cut to meet this £277k savings target. In addition to the PCSO cuts, alternative options included cutting domestic violence refuges, CCTV, street marshals and hate crime work. Councillors were recommended to choose the PCSO option and wield the axe to the 9 posts in a report that went to the council’s Communities Committee this evening.
However, as part of the recent cross-party budget negotiations at the hung council, Labour proposed that none of the options should be pursued in the coming year. This one-year fix has been agreed by the council’s political leaders, and tonight the Communities Committee endorsed this position. The funds for this reprieve will come from blocking a planned increase in the money that the council’s local Area Forums were to receive for local projects.
Labour’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Ian Boulton (Staple Hill ward), who is also Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Filton & Bradley Stoke, proposed the reprieve. He said:
“The scale of cuts that we are having to make is clearly exposed by the awful options put before us. Councillors have been told that crime has risen over the past six months, but our residents’ safety and sense of security is being put in danger by the Tory-led government’s budget squeeze.
Our move is no more than a one-year fix, but a lot can happen in a year. What is certain is that if we lose this valued police support it would be very hard to get it back again, so we needed urgent action to safeguard it. We don’t pretend that this is a painless solution, as the Area Forums will be unable to vote funds for many of the small local schemes that residents often want.”
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Kingswood, Jo McCarron, has been campaigning for adequate government funding for community safety. Jo McCarron said:
“The last Labour government created teams of police and community support officers in every neighbourhood across the country, working closely with residents to tackle the issues affecting their local community. It’s been disappointing to see so many of those PCSOs cut under this government, and particularly concerning to see our local PCSOs next in line. Hundreds of residents across the constituency have signed up to oppose these cuts. The Labour team has listened, and worked to protect the community safety budget this year. But sooner or later, cuts to community safety will come, and people’s fundamental right to feel safe in their community will be undermined, unless the government intervenes.
Labour has set out plans to put more money into frontline policing, by abolishing Police and Crime Commissioners, increasing the cost of gun licenses and driver offender training, and making forces join together to purchase equipment more cheaply, and we will put renewed focus on neighbourhood policing, putting strong policing teams at the heart of every community. Alongside the hundreds of residents who have already joined this campaign, we are calling on this government to reassure local people that they share this commitment to keeping our communities safe.”