Lib Dems' appeal to spare PCSOs from mayor's axe
BRISTOL'S Liberal Democrats have made a plea to mayor George Ferguson to save the city's police community support officers.
Mr Ferguson plans to axe all 32 PCSOs who are paid for by the council – another 80 in the city are funded by the police – in his proposed £35-million budget cuts.
But Lib Dem leader Tim Kent is urging Mr Ferguson to consider a compromise – whereby the council would fund 20 PCSOs and for the city to seek support from Police Commissioner Sue Mountstevens to fund the other 12 posts.
This would mean the council would need to find an extra £300,000 this year to fund the posts.
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The Lib Dems are suggesting a £42,000 saving could be made by reductions in energy use for street lighting, £50,000 could come from a service review within the council's neighbourhoods and communities team and the rest would come from the council's housing revenue account, which uses tenants' rent payments for, among other things, repairs and maintenance.
The reason for using housing funds is to recognise the role the PCSOs play in the fight against anti-social behaviour on Bristol's estates.
Former police commissioner candidate Pete Levy, who is a Lib Dem ward councillor for Horfield, is taking part in cross-party talks set up by the mayor to examine the issue. These talks will not be completed until the end of next week. In the meantime, the Lib Dems have submitted an amendment to the proposed budget and have launched an on-line petition protesting against the suggested cuts to PCSOs.
Mr Kent said: "We're not trying to tie anyone's hands about this. There is room for manoeuvre. I just want to make it clear that we want to save as many PCSO posts as we can, but we do recognise the enormous pressures on George Ferguson's budget."
Mr Kent is writing to Mrs Mountstevens, urging her to find the funding to protect PCSO posts.
Mr Kent said: "We in Bristol have been behind the whole PCSO project from the start, backing their introduction and helping to fund them. In hard times, we are urging the police commissioner to help foot the bill."
When Mr Ferguson first announced his proposed budget cuts, he said that PCSOs were ultimately the responsibility of the police and therefore the force should fund them.
Councillors will be meeting on February 26 to decide next year's civic budget.