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Police Community Support Officers

Volume 468: debated on Monday 26 November 2007

7. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the effect of police community support officers on the regeneration of communities. (167486)

As we have heard, police community support officers have already had a positive impact in helping communities to work together, and we have plans to integrate neighbourhood policing and neighbourhood management. Only last week, I spoke to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other colleagues about how to liaise with other Departments to improve the situation.

PCSOs have been very welcome in Wirral, South, where they have contributed a great deal to resolving problems, particularly those involving youths behaving badly. In my experience, they in no way merit the pejorative tags that have been attached to them by some parts of the press. However, they, like other parts of the network, find it difficult to solve the problem of displacement. What is the solution when effective police and partnership action results in badly behaving young people merely being moved from one area to another—for example, from Teehay lane in Bebington to Mayer park in Bebington?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Clearly, moving a problem from one area to another does not solve it. The situation will be helped from April next year, when there will be a team in every area so that any displaced antisocial behaviour is picked up by the co-ordination of those teams. I already see that working to good effect in my own constituency, where we have a neighbourhood policing team in every ward. Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s interim report recommends the integration of neighbourhood policing and neighbourhood management, and we are making progress on that. We also hope to work with local area agreements, crime reduction partnerships and disorder reduction partnerships to ensure that co-ordination on displacement takes place.

If anybody is attacking community support officers, they are not attacking the individuals who fill the jobs, who are doing a very good job under very difficult circumstances. However, it has to be recognised that they do not have the same training and powers as police officers. What can the Minister do to ensure that more people who are volunteering in this way can be taken into the full constabulary?

I am rather puzzled by the hon. Gentleman’s comments. I will happily explain to him afterwards the exact role of police community support officers. They are not volunteers—they are paid officers trained to provide a different role to that of police constables. There are 16,000 PCSOs—had it not been for this Government, there would be none—in addition to the already expanded numbers of police.