Axe held over heads of police support staff

PCSO numbers are to be slashed
PCSO numbers are to be slashed

Nearly 100 police staff jobs are being axed in a bid to protect Bedfordshire’s thin blue line as the force needs to find £17.5 million in savings over the next four years.

Top brass at Bedfordshire Police are proposing to cut the number of Investigation Officers from 44 to 10, and of community support officers (PCSOs) from 108 to 46.

A formal consultation with staff has begun. They are being asked to consider applying to be regular police officers.

Although the government is reviewing the amount of cash it gives to Bedfordshire, and may give more after its spending review next month, the cuts are proceeding under current budgetary arrangements.

Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “I very much hope the loss of these experienced and committed PCSOs and investigating officers can be avoided.”

A new police structure means, as well as being equipped with new technology, there will be 20 more police officers, taking the force establishment to 1,087. “But,” said Mr Martins, “this is still some 300 less than the Chief Constable says we need.”

Having unsuccessfully tried to raise additional funding by holding a referendum to increase council tax in May, Mr Martins now believes the Government is unlikely to give Bedfordshire the amount needed to employ 300 more officers.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Collins said the new model force is showing improvements in responding to more incidents, faster, and is moving closer towards achieving the ambition of being a ‘Top 10’ performing force for victim satisfaction.

The move to cut PCSO numbers and close some stations has been condemned by trade union UNISON.

UNISON branch secretary, Sarah Crowe, said: “UNISON believes reductions in police staff will result in less police officers being available to help the public because they will be carrying out the work of police staff who have been made redundant.”

The move comes after the announcement a consultation has been launced into the closure of the front desks at five stations across the county.