January 26, 2023 3.45 pm This story is over 15 months old

Lincolnshire Police to cut PCSO numbers by almost half

Funding problems after the latest government grant

By Local Democracy Reporter

Two weeks after Lincolnshire Police celebrated 20 years of PCSOs in the county, the force will be cutting the community support officer staff by 45% in a bid to tackle funding gaps.

Police Community Support Officers are seen as a key liaison point between communities and the police force, engaging with the public and supporting ongoing frontline officer responses to deter crime in their designated areas.

A letter was issued to staff at Lincolnshire Police this week, informing the workforce of its decision to cut the number of PCSOs in the county from 91 to 50.

This has proven to be controversial given the force’s recent championing of the PCSO scheme earlier this month, on the 20th anniversary of community support officers arriving in Lincolnshire.

Lincolnshire Police says this is a result of significant budget gaps, as it remained the lowest funded police force in the United Kingdom, leaving leadership with difficult decisions to make.

The latest grant settlement awarded Lincolnshire Police a small uplift, but left an underlying funding gap of £3.4 million, which has been balanced by using reserves, according to the force.

In an attempt to bridge the predicted gap of £10 million over the next few years, Lincolnshire Police had planned to make recurrent savings of £3 million per year, but say this recent announcement makes that even more difficult.

Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Chris Haward. | Photo: Steve Smailes

Chief Constable Chris Haward said: “The budget settlement we have just received has been far more negative than anticipated and having spent recent weeks collectively and urgently working through the implications, it is clear that the use of our reserves isn’t enough to close the gap we face.

“We remain the lowest funded force in the UK with the lowest officers and staff per head of population. Despite this our teams do an incredible job to make sure Lincolnshire is a safe place for everyone who lives, works, or visits here.

“We do everything we can to deploy our people where they are most needed based on threat, risk, and harm to the public.

“Thanks to in-depth analysis that concluded recently, in which we examined every single area of the organisation, we have never before had a better understanding of our people, our demand, where we need investment, and where we can start to look at making changes.

“All of this is based on making the county safe for everyone. We are lean, but we are effective in what we deliver.”

The Chief Constable at Lincolnshire Police goes on to say that “urgent and critical decisions” had to be made to take on funding gaps in the local force, restructuring the PCSO model in the process.

Mr Haward added: “Given the size of the funding gap we now face, we have had to make urgent and critical decisions, which mean it is unavoidable that some front-line services will be affected.

“None of these decisions come lightly and we have considered every option across all parts of the force.  It is clear, from this work and based on the funding we now know we have, that the current PCSO model is not sustainable within the forecasted budget.

“Whilst this is not something I want to do, we will have to reduce our PCSO numbers from 91 to 50 and reconfigure the operating model to ensure we still have an effective response prioritising neighbourhoods at highest risk of threat and harm.”

Lincolnshire Police will keep hold of “as many of our PCSOs as possible” to maintain community policing in the county, saying they were left with no alternative but to make cuts.

Chief Constable Haward concluded: “We know how important neighbourhood policing is, which is why we plan to retain as many of our PCSOs as possible, but know this change will cause concern to some people.

“PCSOs will continue to support community policing alongside regular officers who remain dedicated to their respective neighbourhoods.

“This is a decision that has been made only recently, having been left no other option when looking at other areas and departments and considering what is possible within the budget and what we most need in terms of threat, risk and harm in order to keep people in this county safe.

“Please bear with us and when we can tell you more, we will make sure to get that information over to you.”

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