MPs criticise proposed axe for Norfolk PCSOs

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Plans to make all of Norfolk’s police community support officers redundant set a “dangerous precedent”, a shadow minister has warned.

Police chiefs will meet publicly for the first time tonight following last month’s announcement of fresh service cuts, which will also see several stations have their public desks closed.

But a Westminster Hall debate on community policing, which took place last Tuesday saw a number of MPs criticise the Norfolk plans.

Shadow policing minister Louise Halgh said her local force in South Yorkshire had been forced to restore neighbourhood policing because of the consequences of merging it with another department.

She also questioned whether the proposals should be implemented without public consultation, arguing it set a “dangerous precedent” for other forces.

She added: “Other police forces across the country looked on in horror as Norfolk announced that it would be abolishing every single one of its police community support officers in the new year.”

Fellow Labour MP Daniel Zeichner asked if it was “extraordinary” for Norfolk to make the move.

And former cabinet minister Sir Edward Davey said his North Norfolk colleague Norman Lamb had reported the “shock” felt in his area at the announcement.

But policing minister Nick Hurd said, following talks with all 43 forces in England and Wales, he had been “struck by the degree to which police and crime commissioners and police chiefs are absolutely determined to keep the community policing model as core business.”

The government is conducting a demand and resilience review of the police service.

And Mr Hurd said decisions on funding would be based on “evidence, not assertion.”

He added: “We owe that to the taxpayer.

“We are determined to ensure that the police have the resources and the support they need, without giving up on the challenge we have to give them to ensure they are using that money in the most effective way.”

The comments came ahead of the latest Norfolk police accountability forum meeting, which will be held at the South Norfolk District Council offices in Long Stratton today from 5pm. A public question and answer session then follows from 7pm.

The meeting, which involves the county’s police and crime commissioner, Lorne Green, and chief constable Simon Bailey along with other senior officers, is the first to be held since the plans to axe PCSOs and enquiry desks, as well as appointed 81 fully-trained police officers were announced almost four weeks ago.

Mr Green said: “I’ve made a pledge to be visible, accessible and accountable to the people of Norfolk, and to ensure the Chief Constable and his officers are too.

“With some big announcements having been made by the Chief Constable since our last outing together, the people of South Norfolk and those attending from further afield will no doubt have questions to ask.”