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LGA refuses ministers' requests to back PCSOs' funding

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The Local Government Association has declined ministerial requests to help convince councils to fund Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

Home Office requests that the LGA back its instructions to councils were refused after details of community safety funding were delayed for two months and as the department’s policies increasingly by-passed councils, LGC has been told.

A paper discussed by the association’s safer and stronger communities board confirmed: “We considered that we should not devote further resources to work with the Home Office on persuading councils to fund PCSOs.”

The LGA, which has previously been vocal about delayed funding announcements, told civil servants that councils should make their own decisions.

Mehboob Khan (Lab), chair of the LGA board, left also pointed to the “marginalising” of councils in Home Office policies, which he blamed on local government ministers’ failure to represent the sector in Whitehall.

Pointing to policies such as the creation of police commissioners and the police-centric review of antisocial behaviour powers, he said it was clear that the new Home Office ministers did not appreciate the importance of successes of councils in community safety policy.

Cllr Khan blamed this on local government ministers who “are no friends of local government” and had failed to lobby effectively for the sector.

“Their continuous barrage of offensive comments and attacks on local government does not show them as champions of local government,” he said. “They are failing us miserably.”

The LGA’s decision not to back the Home Office’s call for PCSO funding flies in the face of the instructions set out in a letter from five secretaries of state.

Writing to community safety partnership chairs, ministers insisted that councils “will continue to supplement the Neighbourhood Policing Fund, which pays for 75% of police community support officers”.

The letter, sent in December, provoked anger at the LGA because no details of community safety funding had been released, and it was not until January that a 20% cut in 2011-12 was unveiled and February that a further 50% cut for 2012-13 was announced.

One LGA source noted that “by the time you start totting up all these letters saying which ministerial pet projects your unring-fenced funding should be spent on, you’re not left with a lot of discretionary spend”.

The Home Office refused to comment on the LGA’s decision, but issued a statement that said: “PCSOs play an important role in tackling local crime and antisocial behaviour.

“In recognition of that the government is continuing to provide the Neighbourhood Policing Fund for two years until police and crime commissioners are in place, at which point this funding will be rolled into the police main grant.”

The LGA’s decision on PCSOs is the second time in recent months it has decided not to support central government policy initiatives on crime and safety.

At the board’s October meeting, members turned down a request from the National Policing Improvement Agency that it back a move to encourage council staff to volunteer as special constables.

NPIA special constables regional coordinator James Deller said councillors had had a problem with the “mixed messages” of allowing time off for volunteering as some councils reduced working hours and made redundancies.

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