The cost of Frodsham and Helsby’s PCSOs looks set to increase dramatically next year after Cheshire Police asked the parish councils to fully fund the posts.
Currently, both parish councils fund a third of the cost of a PCSO (police community support officer) in their area and will do the same in the next financial year, 2017-18.
But they were warned by Cheshire Police this week that they would have to meet the full cost of a PCSO – around £38,000 from 2018-19 if they wanted one.
Both town councils have said that Cheshire Police were “open for negotiations” but if the councils had to fully fund the posts it would eat up a huge chunk of their yearly budgets.
Both have agreed to pay just over £12,000 this financial year to support the posts.
Chair of Frodsham town council, Cllr Judith Critchley, said: “We have a year to negotiate. None of us were happy about the increase and we can’t see that there would be anything extra for that money so we would have to think very carefully about what is on offer.
“It is very disappointing that there should be such a massive increase but we will have to wait and see.”
If Frodsham were to fully fund the post it would eat up around 20 per cent of its £12,000 budget. In Helsby it would be close to 50 per cent of its £87,000 budget.
Chair of Helsby Parish Council, Cllr Terry O’Neill said: “The problem they have got is that they have quite a few town and parish councils who do not contribute like Frodsham and Helsby do. We think these councils should be harrassed, not Frodsham and Helsby.
“At the moment we are waiting for them [Cheshire Police] to come up with a formula.”
Cllr O’Neill said that if the council were forced to pay in full for a PCSO then they would have to increase their precept and reduce other services.
Cheshire West and Chester councillor for Frodsham, Cllr Andrew Dawson, posted a breakdown of the costs of a PCSO on the Frodsham Tories blog where he questioned the police’s figures.
He wrote: “In some cases PCSOs are part-funded by partners. Those partners include Cheshire West and Chester Council, Frodsham Town Council and some social landlords.
“The partners, at present pay what is described as a thirs of the cost of the PCSO. The maths is interesting though. FTC’s third in 2016-17 (i.e. the current financial year) is £11,918. The advertised salary costs of a PCSO are between £19,326-£21,402. In other words FTC’s ‘third’ is, in reality 55 per cent of the highest paid PCSO gross salary.
“Typically though, when considering the costs of an individual employee, one also has ‘on-costs’ such as the employer’s national insurance and pension contributions. In addition establishment costs can also be added. It can only be on the basis of these additional costs that £11,918 can be considered to be a third. So doing the maths – if a third is £11,918, the full cost must be £11,918 x 3 = £35,754. But if the full figure is £35,754 the on-costs must be £35,754-£21,402 = £14,352 for the most expensive PCSO. That is the on-costs are 67 per cent of the highest gross salary. Frankly, I don’t believe the on-costs can be anything like as high as this, however I remain open to being convinced but I will now expect full disclosure of the relevant figures.”
Speaking to the Standard, Cllr Dawson said that PCSOs do a “fantastic job” but said the funding system was “anomalous”.
Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick said: “The Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner are committed to the future of the PCSO role. As a consequence the decision has been taken to maintain existing PCSO partnership funding arrangements for the year 2017/18.
“The partnership funding arrangements relating to PCSOs have been in place for a number of years and at the request of the Commissioner the Chief Constable is currently reviewing those arrangements with partners.
“As a result the constabulary has commenced dialogue with all funding partners to explore future funding options for PCSOs.
“No decisions have been made as the review is ongoing. The Chief Constable will report findings to the Commissioner later in 2017.”