West Midlands Police has confirmed proposals to reduce its number of police community support officers (PCSOs) following a wholesale review of local policing.

The review was part of wider plans to help the force improve service while navigating huge savings in excess of £130m that it has to make over the next five years. 

Deputy Chief Constable David Thompson said: “From the outset of the review we were very clear that we anticipated we would have to significantly reduce the numbers of PCSOs employed by the force.

“This is a hugely regrettable but unavoidable set of proposals as we need to do all we can to ensure we are sustainable to 2020 and beyond.”

The new local policing model proposes reducing the number of PCSOs down to 119 by 2020. The timescales for the reductions are yet to be determined but they are likely to be implemented in a phased approach. 

The force is now entering into a formal consultation period with trade unions and staff on the proposals. 

The force has faced unprecedented cuts since 2010 and has seen its budget reduced by more than £146 million.

Its WMP2020 programme is working hard to ensure the force can continue to serve the public against a backdrop of continued budget cuts. 

But with over 80 per cent of operating costs coming from pay budgets the organisation is facing workforce reductions in the region of 2,500 over the next five years − making it smaller than when it was formed in 1974. 

This is the first time the force has carried out a wholesale review of PCSOs in terms of their role, numbers and deployment since their inception − unlike other areas of the force. 

The neighbourhood review looked at how local policing will work from 2020 and beyond against the continued backdrop of financial austerity. 

The scale and pace of the proposed changes are dependent on a number of factors including the Comprehensive Spending Review and the final financial settlement due in December which could see figures alter again. 

Deputy Chief Constable David Thompson continued: “We believe our funding settlement will mean that by 2020 we will have reduced by almost 45 per cent over a decade. The unfortunate reality is that we will lose a lot of our people as a result. 

“I am confident though that policing will continue to protect the public but how services look and are delivered will have to change.

“The WMP2020 programme of work is about building an effective and affordable force for the year 2020 and beyond. 

“I remain clear that we are not pulling away from working closely with our communities. Yes it will be in a different way but I am committed to ensuring that what we do is more meaningful and has a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “West Midlands Police was recently rated as outstandingly efficient by HMIC. We are using our reserves to invest in technology to make us even more efficient, but as over four fifths of our costs are wages there is only so much we can do without making difficult choices.

“Unfortunately it means that the first expected casualty of the Government’s prolonged and continued attack on policing in the West Midlands is PCSOs.

“There is no other way with the cuts we face. We have already closed front desks and are making difficult decisions on closing police buildings in order to focus all we can on officer, PCSO and staff numbers.

“I will do all I can to ensure neighbourhood policing continues to be at the forefront of everything that West Midlands Police does, but in future it will have to be delivered with fewer staff and in a more focussed way.

“We are faced with some tough decisions but I continue to support the professional and thorough approach the Chief Constable is taking. He is doing the absolute best with the resources he has.”

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Yvonne Mosquito said: “The Chief Constable has had to make difficult decisions following the huge cuts we have faced and will continue to face in the future.

“We are rated as one of the most efficient forces in the country, but even so, the cuts are such that difficult decisions like this are unavoidable and proposed cuts to much-valued PCSOs will have to take place.

“I remain committed to neighbourhood policing, although it will have to take a different form in future.

“We are doing all we can with the resources that we have to maintain officer and staff numbers. If we receive further bad news in the Comprehensive Spending Review by the government this could have further implications.”

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