TOP Thurrock councillors have been told Essex Police have under-spent on PCSOs by over £1 million this year and promised they will not make any PCSO redundant.
One Wednesday (13 November) evening, the council’s cabinet was discussing an overview and scrutiny investigation into whether PCSOs were value for money and whether the council should continue to match-fund 14 of them in the borough.
Portfolio holder for public protection, Cllr Angie Gaywood, thanked everybody and organisation which had contributed to the investigation, and said: “I would like to say what a really valuable and excellent piece of work this review has been, the report is clearly very thorough.”
She added: “Quite late into the review process we were advised by Chief Superintendant Andy Prophet, that, with effect from 1 April 2014, Essex police will cease match funding arrangements for PCSOs.
“However we have also received confirmation that despite this there will be no loss in PCSO numbers with no PCSO redundancies.”
Cllr Gaywood explained: “I feel that this has changed the potential direction of options open to us,” saying that although the review confirmed PCSOs are highly valued in Thurrock, there has been a “considerable problem” identifying “our correct allocation of PCSOs” which had dropped from 54 to 42 since 2004.
She said: “Despite numerous attempts the review failed to confirm on what basis PCSOs were allocated and in particular what was the correct allocation for Thurrock.”
The review was unable to show what specific value the Council added by partially funding the PCSOs and Cllr Gaywood recommended: “That I write to the Chief Constable thanking him for this letter and confirmation that despite match funding arrangements being ended by Essex Police he has given us the assurance there will be no loss of our much valued PCSOs officers in Thurrock.”
And she said: “I have a finance document from the treasurer to the Police and Crime Commissioner which was tabled at the last Police and Crime panel. This document provides an update for the Essex Police force 2013/2014 revenue budget – and it clearly states that for this financial year PCSO pay is forecast to under-spend by £1.1 million.
“Given this information I feel that Thurrock residents are not only paying twice for their PCSOs – once through the Police Precept of their Council Tax and secondly directly through their Council Tax itself – we now have confirmation our match-funding is being used to fill the coffers of Essex Police.”
Members agreed to stop match-funding PCSOs from April and to ask overview and scrutiny to look at other ways to use the money – such as increasing enforcement of issues such as dog fouling, fly tipping and parking to name just a few.
Cllr Gaywood concluded: “This has to be a real gain for our residents – not only do we not lose any of our PCSO officers – we have the opportunity to increase council enforcement on the issue residents care about.”