Council PCSO funding cut sparks political row

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Burnley Borough Council is to withdraw its funding for police community support officers – sparking a huge political row.

The decision was made at the most recent full council meeting where councillors voted to end the council’s contribution of £88,000 to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office as part of the overall savings needed to be made to meet a 25% cut in budgets by 2020.

Observatory comp
Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers

Observatory comp Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers

The decision has prompted a huge political row between the ruling Labour group and the Liberal Democrats on Burnley Council.

Lib Dem Coun. Neil Mottershead said: “We want to see PCSOs continue their hard work in improving the quality of life for residents across our communities.

“The PCSOs are the eyes and ears of the police and feed a lot of invaluable information to the regular officers. They also help to draw communities together and many of them go well beyond the ordinary police remit to help keep communities close-knit.

“I have spent many hours days and nights out on patrols with the PCSOs of Burnley working on problems of anti-social behaviour and on stay safe nights which is picking vulnerable children up off the streets who are drunk and taking them home safe. The PCSOs do an incredible job in Burnley.”

The council has to save £4m. out of a £15.2m. budget by 2020 due to unfair Tory cuts.

Burnley Council leader Coun. Mark Townsend

Coun. Mottershead has also started a petition calling for the council to rethink its decision.

But Labour council leader Coun. Mark Townsend hit back and accused the Lib Dems of hypocrisy, pointing out that they cut a similar grant in 2010.

He also blamed Central Government cuts to Burnley Council.

Coun. Townsend said: “The council has to save £4m. out of a £15.2m. budget by 2020 due to unfair Tory cuts.

“So far the council has announced savings of around £2m. which includes removing from the budget an £88,000 grant to the police.

“This was a tough decision for Labour Councillors as we were the ones who saved the police grant in 2012. This was after the Liberal Democrats first cut the grant by 20% in 2010 and then failed to make ongoing provision in the budget going forward.

“The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives did not put forward any alternative savings proposals when they were discussed in council meetings during September.

“In making the decision councillors were reassured by the Lancashire PCC who is on the record saying ‘he can assure the public that he won’t be reducing the PCSO element of the policing budget any time soon’. He also confirmed that ‘PCSO’s will be deployed based on risk and threat’ which should give communities assurance that neighbourhoods will continue to be be supported.

“It is hypocrisy for Coun. Mottershead, a Liberal Democrat councillor, to be opposing police and local government cuts.

“Has he conveniently forgotten the damage his party did to front line policing in Lancashire? I haven’t, and I am sure the residents of Burnley haven’t forgotten that he said nothing when his party were reducing the number of full time police officers by 500 during their time in government with the Tories.”