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Full council review (6): the “second-rate” PCSO debate

12.20.10 | Comment?

There were two Police Community Support Officer (PCSO)-focused motions on Full Council on Wednesday, one from the Tories and one from Labour.

In the end, because the Labour councillor (Barry Nolan) who had put forward the motion had to leave the chamber (in a great deal of pain from his knackered back), we ‘folded’ our motion into the Tory motion as an amendment, because there was a risk the Tory mayor would not let us put the motion on Barry’s behalf.  Better safe than sorry.

But before I go into the debate in depth, some breaking news…….

I’ve just had informal confirmation, though there’s nothing in writing, that ringfenced Home Office funding for PCSOs in Lancashire has been confirmed for two years.

This appears to be in keeping with an intervention, made bizarrely late in the debate on Wednesday, by a Tory councillor who sits on the Police Authority, and who said he had had this news earlier in the afternoon.  Even more weirdly, he did not appear to have told his own portfolio holder this breaking news.

I don’t exactly know at this stage what this all means, and specifically whether the confirmation of Home Office funding means additional money, or whether it’s all being taken from the central pot.  I’ll bring more updates as I get them.

What I can say is that the lateness of this intervention by a Tory councillor ‘in the know’ exposed the Tories for what they are.

First, there was the fact that this backbench Tory had apparently not even bothered to mention the update to his leadership.

Second, if the Home Office funding is confirmed as in place, this leaves the question of the 88,000 council funding (11,000 for 8 PCSOs matched to 29,000 from the Home Office) as the outstanding part of the package to guarantee these posts. Yet, the Tories simply refused our amendment, which said specifically that the council should guarantee this council funding for the next three years.

Our amendment read as follows:

That this council recognises the value that our Police Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) play in West Lancashire’s communities, and the significant harm which will be done to community policing should PCSO’s be withdrawn.

That, in keeping with spirit of the resolution passed at Corporate Overview & Scrutiny on 25th November 2010, the Chief Executive be instructed to write to the Chief Constable in opposition to any withdrawal of PCSO’s, setting out a commitment to ongoing funding of PCSO’s posts by this council for at least the next three years, and making clear the expectation that no posts be withdrawn from West Lancashire.

Further, that the Chief Executive be instructed to write to the Home Secretary, setting out this council’s concerns about any withdrawal of Home Office funding for PCSO’s posts in West Lancashire, and recommending that the continuation of this funding be confirmed.

All in all, the Tory motion did nothing, in its pettiness, to allay fears about the council’s attitude to PCSOs.  This was of course brought into stark relieif by one Tory backbencher, an ex-police officer, who referred in the debate to the PCSOs as ‘second-rate’, to muted gasps of astonishment and the odd howl of derision from our side.

While the Tory motion started with the usual ‘it’s a deficit thing’ mantra and then went on to say that they really like PCSOs (yeah, right), with an added amendment to say that they’d write a letter, the Labour amendment was specific about what needed to be done, and didn’t engage in empty rhetoric.  Our amendment was of course lost, because the Tories do not care for real debate and motions passed on their merits.

It is the Tories who are “second-rate”.

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