Village bows to police 'blackmail'

PUBLISHED: 11:34 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

A VILLAGE has decided to meet a £7,500 demand to help fund a dedicated PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) following a police ultimatum. Redbourn Parish Council met last week (March 20) to discuss whether they should match fund a PCSO or leave the vil

A VILLAGE has decided to meet a £7,500 demand to help fund a dedicated PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) following a police ultimatum.

Redbourn Parish Council met last week (March 20) to discuss whether they should match fund a PCSO or leave the village to share one with Wheathampstead. The decision to find the money was won by a single vote.

Wheathampstead Parish Council had already agreed to provide match funding to keep their PCSO, Jo Merritt, exclusive to the village.

St Albans District Council's cabinet refused to provide any additional funding to the police for PCSOs.

Redbourn district and parish councillor, Tony Swendell, said he and many others were extremely angry with Herts Police for holding the two councils to ransom over the matter.

Cllr Swendell, who is a former Detective Chief Superintendent, accused the police of "the crudest form of blackmail" but said that the parish council had to consider the needs of the local residents, many of whom had come to depend on the former PCSO Allison Dewar.

He said: "My opinion is this is total blackmail but at the end of the day, the council is there to represent the community not themselves. We felt there was enough interest and desire in the community for a PCSO."

But he said it would be a tough task for the parish council to find the lump sum up front out of such a tight budget and estimated that in future years local residents would be paying an average of £3 to £4 a year extra for the service.

He added: "We had not bargained for this. We now have to find extra out of a very meagre precept to actually get this together and it's wrong. We pay enough taxes for policing and we should not have to pay more."

Cllr Swendell added that it was unfair that larger areas such as Harpenden and St Albans were not asked to pay anything. He also fears the picture for local policing could get bleaker still. "It just seems that more and more police are being taken away from operational duties and put in headquarter complexes. Police stations seem to be sold and moved to big divisional stations where they lose contact with the public."

At the time Redbourn was given the choice of paying up or losing their dedicated PCSO, Police Chief Inspector Sue Wheatley said there was no funding provided by the local council to enable the police to increase PCSO numbers within the Harpenden, Redbourn and Wheathampstead area.

She added that the allocation and deployment of the PCSOs throughout Herts was determined by a system which included an assessment of the degree of deprivation in an area and whether councils provided match funding for the posts, and the St Albans district did not score highly on those factors.

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