WIGAN’S police community support officers are costing the force millions of pounds despite facing the biggest budgets cuts in its history, we can reveal.
Greater Manchester Police spent more than £2.15m on wages for 80 PCSO posts in the Wigan borough, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
And the costs, which include basic salary, shift allowances, national insurance and superannuation, have risen sharply in the last three years, from £2m in 2008/09 and £1.9m in 2007/08.
Police chiefs today defended the cash forked out on PCSOs and pledged to maintain their numbers in Wigan.
Chief Supt Shaun Donnellan, of Wigan police, said: “Funding of PCSOs has been ring-fenced until April 2013. This does not mean we are being given any more money, merely that this part of our budget cannot be used for anything else.
“Our intention was always to try and maintain PCSO numbers because they are frontline staff. Salary costs for PCSOs have risen due to a combination of higher numbers of PCSOs in post and the annual cost of living pay rise that was awarded to them.”
GMP’s Wigan division has 80 PCSO posts, of which 78 are currently filled.
Since their introduction in 2002, PCSOs have come under criticism and calls have been made for the scheme to be scrapped.
Dubbed Blunkett’s Bobbies after the home secretary who introduced them, somme rank and file officers have claimed that they are a gimmick.
The officers receive only three weeks’ training before being sent out on duty and very few are able to make arrests or are even equipped with handcuffs.
In Wigan, the drowning of local schoolboy Jordon Lyon in 2007 sparked a storm of controversy after two PCSOs were accused of failing to try and help the 10-year-old.
And the role of PCSOs have again come under the spotlight as police chiefs look to save millions of pounds as part of swingeing budget cuts.
The Greater Manchester Police Authority (GMPA) has said GMP will have to lose a quarter of its 12,000 staff, including frontline officers.
A total of 1,387 officers and 1,557 civilian posts could go.
Savings of £52m need to be found in 2011/12, which means that 750 civilian and 309 officer posts will go by 2012.
Police have refused to rule out redundancies among community support officers across Wigan.
Greater Manchester Police, which polices the vast majority of the Metro borough, said it will be later this autumn before they are able to say if its 840 PCSO jobs are at risk.
However it has been announced Wigan is getting five additional police officers as part of a shakeup of Greater Manchester’s frontline policing.
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