Questions raised over Sussex Police cuts

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The police and crime commissioner for Sussex has defended a cut in police community support officer numbers of almost 40 per cent .

Responding to a Hastings resident’s question submitted to the police and crime panel, Katy Bourne said it was important to remember what the police are ‘actually here for’ and to ‘recognise where their physical presence makes a difference’.

“Neighbourhood policing in Sussex has remained broadly the same for the last 15 years and we now need a model that meets the demands of modern-day policing and the policing challenges of the 21st century,” she said.

The question, submitted to the panel by Mr Patten of Hastings said: “Although aware of the budgetary pressures we are all under, what is the justification for the decision to reduce the number of PCSOs so dramatically – 39 per cent meaning a drop from 347 to 210 – when the original reason for their placement, particularly in rural villages and elsewhere, was to give the police a ‘face’ in the countryside whilst at the same time making a real contribution in reducing the serious fear of crime?

“This surely cannot be the signal we should be sending out to the public?”

Responding, Mrs Bourne said: “Demands on the frontline are changing and policing needs to adapt accordingly.

“It is not only uniformed police officers on the beat but skilled staff who can investigate complex crimes online, seize criminal assets through financial investigations and solve crimes through high-tech or forensic research.

“These often unseen areas are a crucial part of our ‘frontline’ and where the chief constable and I have sought further investment to strengthen the force’s capability and capacity.”

Since 2010, Sussex Police has reduced spending by £50m and, over the next four years, it needs to reduce it by a further £57m.

“With around 80 per cent of policing funding going towards officer and staff costs it is inevitable that we will, over time, see people leave and not be replaced,” said Mrs Bourne.

“My ongoing challenge to the chief constable will be that his new model must maintain public confidence and reassurance.”