A petition has been launched against proposed cuts to police services in Norfolk and campaigners will be out in Lynn this weekend to gather support.
Yesterday, the county’s chief constable, Simon Bailey, announced the force’s intention to make all of its 150 PCSOs redundant and close several enquiry offices, including those in Downham, Fakenham and Hunstanton.
Although the proposal also include the recruitment of around 80 new police officers, it provoked an angry reaction from union leaders, who described the plans as “retrograde and dangerous.”
Almost 150 people have already signed an online petition, via the change.org website, demanding sufficient funding of the police, so the redundancies can be avoided.
And campaigners say they will be in Lynn’s town centre on Sunday in a bid to obtain further signatures.
North West Norfolk Labour party secretary Jo Rust, who launched the petition, said: “We are vehemently opposed to the removal of all PCSOs, the closure of our rural police stations and public enquiry offices.
“We believe the only way to secure the safety of the public is for a fully police force which funds the £30 million taken between 2010 and 2016 and the additional £10 million of cuts now to be made.
“We need to invest more in our policing, not take staff and resources out.”
But the proposals have been supported by both West Norfolk MPs, Elizabeth Truss and Sir Henry Bellingham.
In a Twitter post, Ms Truss said she had been assured that all PCSOs would be supported in applying to become PCs or take up other positions.
Sir Henry said that, while it was “very sad” the PCSOs would lose their jobs, the changing nature of crime meant policing had to change.
He said: “Given that PCSO’s do not have the power to arrest, process or interview prisoners and given they cannot use police cars for pursuits and cannot deploy outside of the county, it must make sense to take this really tough decision to replace the 150 with 81 fully trained Police Constables and Sergeants.”
But Mrs Rust, who stood against Sir Henry at June’s general election, claimed he was going against the promise he made when he was re-elected of working with the emergency services to secure service improvements.
She said: “Cutting staff and resources is not making improvements. Officers with the powers of arrest need the intelligence that comes from having engagement with the local community through the work the PCSOs undertake.”