Press release: Budget debate Opposition Jury find Labour Council guilty of PCSO ‘theft’

Leeds Liberal Democrats say a joint stand by Opposition Council groups to call for the reintroduction of 37 Police Community Support Officers axed by Labour is a judgement on their ‘theft’ from the neighbourhoods they now no longer patrol.

The Liberal Democrats have joined other Opposition groups on the Council in submitting identical amendments at the Leeds City Council Annual Budget meeting calling for the reinstatement of funding for PCSOs cut from Neighbourhood Policing Teams across the city by the Labour Council last year.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Stewart Golton will propose the move on Wednesday. He said: “Our Police Officers are facing an uphill task tackling crime in our city, with only a fraction of offences reaching the courts. Police Community Support Officers are invaluable to enabling the police to keep a presence on our streets, offering reassurance to residents, and acting as the eyes and ears on the ground for colleagues in the wider constabulary. Their absence is a handicap to tackling anti-social behaviour in our communities, is a major grievance for the public, and should be for us as their representatives. Their removal has been felt like a theft, and our amendment, alongside others, seeks to right that wrong in the spirit of restorative justice.”

The amendments by the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Morley Borough Independents, Garforth & Swillington Independents, and the Conservatives all seek to fund the reinstatement of the PCSOs through a reduction in the Council’s subsidy of Leeds 2023 Cultural Festival. It is predicted that the funding withdrawn for Leeds 2023 could be achieved by a greater proportion of commercial sponsorship.

“The Liberal Democrat Group’s proposal last year to pay for the PCSO posts through reducing the Council’s subsidy of Trades Union Convenor Posts was rejected by the Labour Group, so we have offered an alternative means of funding this year that won’t affect frontline services in other areas.”

The 37 PCSO posts were jointly funded with the Council’s contribution matchfunded by the West Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner. When the Council funding was withdrawn, the Police funding fell away as well. It is hoped that if the funding is reintroduced by the Council, the West Yorkshire Mayor, Tracy Brabin, would revive the partnership funding from her policing budget.

“Safer streets should be a fundamental priority for this Council, as it is for its citizens, and the joint funding of PCSOs was a significant commitment that should not have been so easily ended. At a time when the cost of living is a strain on household finances, we taxpayers are facing a rise in Council tax, and a rise in the Mayor’s Police Precept. Those in charge have a responsibility to make sure that core needs are met before they prioritise funding in activities that many in this city will not have the income to participate in and enjoy.”