The White Paper on policing, published on 3 December, places police community support officers at the centre of the Government’s efforts to reduce antisocial behaviour, including proposals shortly to give extra powers to PCSOs to tackle firework abuse and graffiti.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. PCSO Ryan Carroll, with whom I was out last Saturday in the Weaste area of Salford, will be absolutely delighted that this Labour Government are committed to funding our police community support officers. This is in marked contrast to the policies of the Opposition, who wish to make deep and savage cuts to our public services. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this Labour Government’s support for the fantastic work of our PCSOs remains firm and unwavering?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her support. She will know that it is Labour Government money that has introduced 16,000 PCSOs across the country. Indeed, we have not done just that: for next year, we have committed some £332 million—a 2.7 per cent. increase—to help to support them still further. She will also know, I hope, that in her borough of Salford we have committed a range of support for next year, including part of a £2.5 million package to help to support work against antisocial behaviour. That is all Labour Government money, and it will all be under threat under the Tories.
I am not going to try to score political points. I pay tribute to the role of community support officers, but is the Minister aware that quite a lot of their salary is paid by local town councils, parish councils and borough councils? These councils are finding it increasingly difficult to continue to pay this part of the PCSOs’ salary. As a result—certainly in Cheshire—a number of community support officers are going to be put out of work. Is that not a shame? What will the Government do about it?
I agree that partnership with local authorities is extremely important. I know that the hon. Gentleman would wish that support to continue, and we have committed a considerable amount of money— £332 million next year. That partnership work is important and some authorities are considering it.
I hasten to say, without being party political, that it is not Labour authorities that are doing that.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that in my part of Sheffield, the incidence of criminal damage has gone down, with 200 fewer victims last year. Police community support officers are playing a key role in that. Is he committed to continuing with the neighbourhood policing model? Police community support officers function really well when they are supported by other agencies and organisations that focus on neighbourhoods.
Indeed, the neighbourhood policing model was reconfirmed in the White Paper only 10 days ago. The funding of £332 million for next year includes PCSOs and neighbourhood support for policing. It works, because antisocial behaviour perceptions and concerns among individuals across the country have fallen from 21 per cent. in 2003 to only 16 per cent. in 2009, largely because of the 16,000 PCSOs on the doorstep.