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Community Support Officers

Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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What plans he has to increase the provision for community support officers. [109762]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Bob Ainsworth)

Last year, we provided £19 million of funding for 27 police forces. They have recruited 1,338 community support officers. This year, £41 million is available to continue to support the existing CSOs and to provide for further growth. The results of the second bidding round will be announced shortly.

Many of us think that the introduction of community support officers is a very welcome initiative to tackle antisocial behaviour, which is one of the scourges of modern society. When my hon. Friend considers increasing the number of community support officers and their distribution, will he ensure that divisions outside inner-city areas are also considered so that we have a fair distribution of CSOs to tackle antisocial behaviour in all our communities, including my own in south Nottinghamshire?

We have received bids in the second round from forces that did not apply the first time. By the end of that round, the overwhelming majority of police forces throughout the length and breadth of the country will have recruited CSOs in either year one or year two. The way in which forces deploy CSOs is a matter for their operational determination.

Can the Minister explain the anomaly that community support officers—welcome as they are—can be recruited through the crime fighting fund, whereas the recruitment of retired police officers, who are extremely valuable because of their experience and specialist skills, cannot be given the same priority to access that finance?

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. The crime fighting fund exists for the recruitment of police officers, not CSOs.