Local Plaid Cymru politicians have raised concerns over budget proposals by the Welsh Government that could see funding for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) drastically cut.
Currently, the Welsh Government funds 600 PCSOs across Wales – having increased funding to over £22 million in 2021, as part of a key manifesto pledge to tackle crime and support communities.
Police Community Support Officers work with police officers and share some, but not all of their powers. They provide an important link between their communities and the police service to ensure people have the support they need.
However, the Welsh Government’s recently announced Draft Budget for 2024 to 2025, proposes a £7.5 million cut to the PCSO budget from £22 million to £15.5 million– outlining the need for “policing partners to reshape their workforce”.
The proposed cut to the PCSO budget, and its potential impact on crime and community cohesion was brought to the attention of the First Minister by Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru's Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales in the Senedd.
Questioning First Minister on Tuesday 10 January, Cefin Campbell said:
“There's no doubt that PCSOs play an invaluable role in communities in Mid and West Wales, and more often than not they operate as important eyes and ears within our local communities.
Whilst I am well aware of the current budget constraints, I have real concerns this drastic cut in PCSO funding could neglect the close relationships between communities and the police force and detriment efforts in tackling crime.”
Speaking in the Senedd, Cefin Campbell MS also raised concerns about the Welsh Government’s proposed scrapping of the Wales police schools programme - which provides support in all primary and secondary schools in Wales on a range of topics, including substance misuse, online safety and personal wellbeing.
Cefin Campbell MS’ concerns about cuts to community policing and police school programme were also echoed by Dafydd Llywelyn, Plaid Cymru’s Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys Police, who said:
“These proposed cuts to both the PCSO budget and the highly valued Wales police school programme will come as a significant blow – and will hamper the frontline cohesion efforts between communities and police in tackling crime and raising awareness of pressing issues such as substance misuse and anti-social behaviour.
As Police and Crime Commissioner I will look to ensure neighbourhood policing continues to be safeguarded despite Welsh Government cuts and Tory mismanagement at Westminster, and where possible PCSO numbers will be retained at 2023 levels.”
Responding to Cefin Campbell MS’ question, First Minister, Mark Drakeford said:
“Of course, we do appreciate the work that PCSOs do here in Wales. That's why the Government invested in PCSOs at a time when the number of people working for the police had fallen after cuts from the UK Government. And we have supported the schools programme as well. But we've come to a point now where we have to focus on the responsibilities that have been devolved to the Senedd. And when there is less money available, one of the things that we can do is focus on those things where we receive funding to do things.”