The government was working on a package of measures to reverse the decline in the numbers of special constables by improving the way in which they are recruited, managed and deployed, home office minister Lord Falconer told peers. But he rejected accusations that a recruitment campaign in January had failed.
The government was particularly keen to improve liaison with employers to point out that specials brought a wealth of training and experience to the workplace. Later this year guidance on best practice would be published, and£300,000 had been set aside£300,000 for initiatives to improve recruitment and retention of specials.
'I am not saying that the campaign has not been successful', replied the minister.
'However, a sustained campaign is required to indicate the government's commitment to special constables, and a sustained process is required by which the merits of being a special constable are brought to people's attention so that we can indicate to the public at large that we want people to take up such places'.
Conservative Baroness Anelay said that since 1997 the number of special constables across London had dropped by 51% and across England and Wales by 37%. The police believed one of the main reasons for that fall was because there had been so much micro-management from Whitehall. Would the government remove some of the extra bureaucracy it had loaded on the police force, she asked.
Lord Falconer said there were a number of reasons for the decline in numbers, one being that significants numbers of specials wanted to join the full-time constabulary.
'The critical point to make clear is that we support special constables; we want to see more of them and we are taking steps to achieve that', he added.
Hansard 1 July 2002: Column 1-4