Plans to make all of Norfolk’s police community support officers redundant and close most of its public enquiry offices have been condemned as “retrograde and dangerous” by union leaders.
Stations in Downham, Fakenham and Hunstanton are also set to shut under the proposals outlined by chief constable Simon Bailey earlier today.
But a West Norfolk MP has supported the measures, arguing they reflect the changing nature of the threats posed to the county.
All of Norfolk’s 150 PCSOs are facing redundancy under the plans, although dozens of new police officers will be recruited.
The plan to close enquiry offices also means there will only four stations in the whole county, including Lynn, where a face-to-face service will be available to the public.
Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s regional secretary said: “Criminals and those who seek to harm the public will be the only ones celebrating today.
“PCSOs don’t just wander around the county in uniform to reassure the public, they also do valuable work that helps keep everyone safe.
“If the Norfolk Constabulary goes ahead and gets rid of its PCSOs, the work they currently do tackling low-level crime and anti-social behaviour will either stop altogether, or fall to already hard-pressed police officers and staff to deal with.
“But the true villain of the piece here is the government, which has ruthlessly slashed police budgets, so forces have had to do more with less. It’s no coincidence that as PCSO jobs have disappeared across the UK, crime rates have soared.
“We’ll be doing all we can in the coming days to convince Lorne Green, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, and Simon Bailey to abandon these retrograde and dangerous proposals.”
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said it was “very sad” that the PCSOs would lose their jobs, but offered his support to Mr Bailey.
He said: “The nature of policing has changed quite dramatically in recent years with Norfolk seeing an unprecedented increase in complex crimes, cybercrime and terrorist threats.
“As the criminal landscape changes then so the policing response has to also change. 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.
“Today’s announcement should also be seen in the context of the very large investment currently taking place in Lynn Station.
“This will give us a state of the art facility, fit for the 21st century that will be at the envy of other communities.”