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DIVIDED DISTRICT: Debate rages over decision to cancel funding for Hertsmere PCSOs

 Published on: 22nd August 2023   |   By: Darius Morgan   |   Category: Uncategorized

Hertsmere Borough Council’s (HBC) decision to cancel funding for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Bushey and the surrounding areas has caused concern among the community.

Until the new policy was agreed on August 2, HBC had been matching Herts Police’s funding of £131,000 in order to provide seven additional PCSOs in the area. Hertsmere was one of only two councils in Hertfordshire to still participate in such funding, the other being Three Rivers.

Now, HBC will redirect this money into a replacement community enforcement scheme.

Chief Inspector Mark Bilsdon, who leads policing in Hertsmere, informed BUSHEYnews that without the additional seven PCSOs, they still have 14 PCSOs working in the borough, a number that is “in line” with the rest of the county.

He said: “PCSOs play an important role in providing a visible policing presence in our communities. For many members of the public, they are the local face of the constabulary, but they also work to tackle and prevent anti-social behaviour and other local issues that most affect our communities.

“The funding in question relates to HBC’s longstanding support for an additional seven PCSOs working in the area, supporting work to prevent crime and tackle anti-social behaviour. While we would regret the loss of these additional posts, the force remains fully committed to PCSOs at every level and the public in Hertsmere will still receive a level of policing that is consistent with other parts of the county. Our Safer Neighbourhood Teams will continue to work in our communities to help keep people safe and understand what issues matter most to them.”

Resident, activist, and former Conservative councillor Linda Silver was “horrified” by the decision.

She said: “As a councillor for many years in Bushey Park, I worked very closely with the PCSOs who constantly investigated all sorts of ongoing local problems. Neighbourhood disputes, vandalisation, parking problems, noise nuisance, everything that disrupted the residents who knew them well. They also worked on safety and security, showing these in our library and local park. They helped me and my ward partners with regular surgeries for years.

“Now their work, attention and local knowledge is to be banished!”

Councillor Christian Gray, HBC’s portfolio holder for communities, neighbourhoods and enforcement, was keen to address concerns that have been “overblown”.

He said: “We are not taking PCSOs away; we’re removing the funding for something that we don’t have. What you’ve been used to in the last 18 months isn’t going to change.”

According to cllr Gray, the seven additional PSCO roles are currently unfilled and have been so for the last 18 months. HBC received a £40,000 refund in the last financial year but is yet to ascertain how the rest of the £131,000 contribution was utilised.

Speaking to Bushey News about the new enforcement squad, which is set to trial in May of next year, cllr Gray said: “It’s a new vision and something we’re very proud of. We’re going to have a proactive team that are going to be out there, getting to the issues that affect all our locals.

“I’m 100 per cent behind our police and the work that they do, but they really don’t have the time or resources to deal with the lower level stuff and we can fill that gap, and I see them working with conjunction with each other. It’s the extra pair of eyes we need on things like fly tipping, illegal planning applications, and anti-social behaviour, and we can support the police in dealing with this.

“Rightly so, PCSO deployment should be left with the constabulary and that should never change.”

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