Community safety officers face the chop

First published in Romsey

FTER a decade of battling anti-social behaviour, Hampshire’s community safety officers could fall victim to council cuts.

The 36-strong team of police accredited community safety officers (ACSOs), who can issue on the spot fines, face the axe as part of plans to slash £93 million from Hampshire County Council’s budget. Unions and community leaders have condemned the plan while the police and crime commissioner said the move may make the force’s job harder.

However, council leader, Roy Perry, claims the work of ACSOs overlapped with the police community support officers (PCSOs), which were introduced later.

He said: “I would be the first to concede they are a good body who have done a good job. There will be no decision until January 24 and then by full council on February 20.”

“However, we do face cuts in grant. I do not think it would be in the interests of your readers to raise council tax and we have services like libraries that are a statutory obligation and which we wish to protect as far as possible.”

But police and crime commissioner, Simon Hayes, said hard-pressed Hampshire Police would miss the support of the ACSOs.

Government cutbacks mean the constabulary will this year receive £41m less than four years ago.

Mr Hayes said: “ACSOs have been a valuable asset to the police and it’s so disappointing they’re being removed.

“This decision makes our task more difficult and the fact is, if we are to maintain levels of public safety, Hampshire Constabulary will have no option than to absorb this loss imposed upon us by the county council withdrawing the service of ACSOs.”

Tim Cutter, branch secretary for Hampshire Unison, said the ACSOs feel let down.

He said: “I think it is short- sighted and reckless.”

Alan Dowden, a Baddesley county councillor, said the ASCOs had performed invaluable work in reducing yobbish behaviour on the Valley Estate in Chandler’s Ford, where he lives.

He said: “At one time, it was plagued with anti-social behaviour and it was the ASCOs that really helped to eradicate it. They made a hell of a difference and I am really appreciative of them.

“Losing them will have repercussions on the public, as well as putting pressure on the police.”

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