Changing The Beat?
The Impact of Austerity on the Neighbourhood Policing Workforce
Researchers from the Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University have today released a report exploring trends in the PCSO workforce across England and Wales and the current and future implications for Neighbourhood Policing provisions.
The study reveals that while the majority Police forces across England and Wales have answered the financial challenges of government funding reductions by reducing PCSO numbers, there are a number of forces that have maintained or increased their PCSO workforce strength. The London and Welsh police forces have pursued markedly different approaches, with the biggest decreases in PCSO numbers being found in the two London forces and the biggest increases in Wales.
According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, the police have enjoyed rising levels of confidence and visibility by the public since the introduction of PCSOs and a commitment to Neighbourhood Policing. The size of the PCSO workforce is potentially dependent on the continuation of the Neighbourhood Policing approach and vice versa.
Cardiff University researcher Jack Greig-Midlane said “The changes in the Welsh forces represent the most extreme examples of strengthening the neighbourhood policing model. Conversely, the London forces have weakened neighbourhood policing to a larger extent than any of the other English police forces.”
He goes on to caution “The spectrum of reforms highlights the differences in local decision-making and the effects of localised police governance in response to current financial pressures. Overall, neighbourhood policing in England and Wales has been weakened, but there are a number of forces who have minimised the impacts of financial pressures on this policing model. In this era of ‘austerity’, an increasing number of voices are warning of the erosion, or even the end, of neighbourhood policing. With this in mind, the extent and consequence of current changes to this programme of local policing needs to be carefully considered by police forces and policy-makers. "