Fears have been raised crime and anti-social behaviour will increase if Wrexham Council support for PSCOs ends.
Wrexham Council chiefs have proposed a £280,000 saving by ending its agreement with North Wales Police in the Difficult Decisions proposals to save more than £13 million in the next two financial years.
Deputy council leader Cllr Hugh Jones told a scrutiny committee meeting at the Guildhall that Wrexham Council is the only local authority in North Wales to fund PCSOs.
Given this, and the change in role of PSCOs to more mainstream policing, Cllr Jones asked whether it was right for Wrexham Council to be providing funding.
He said it was right to ask the public if they wanted to effectively pay a second precept when one was already in place for policing.
Current commissioner Arfon Jones and Chief Insp Dave Jolly have outlined in a letter the pressures police are currently under, Cllr Jones said.
He added it was important to note “a plea to the Home Office” in the letter to increase funding for mainstream policing, and the reality of the situation was that PCSOs have become more involved in mainstream policing than the original community anti-social behaviour work that was agreed at the outset.
Cllr Jones said the council was working with groups including the health board and third sector agencies to tackle the underlying causes of some of the issues in the town centre. If successful this work would reduce demand on the police, he said.
Police were focusing on drug dealers and users, with a number of arrests made recently, Cllr Jones added.
His view was that in time the situation in Wrexham town centre would improve, not deteriorate.
The council first started to fund PCSOs in 2007 and a year later the funding was increased to 25 per cent of 48 officers.
At the time each ward had a community beat manager with a PCSO as an added resource – with two in Plas Madoc.
Late in 2013 there was a greater emphasis put on partnerships with community councils to determine their policing priorities, Cllr Jones said.
In 2015, the then police and
crime commissioner Winston Roddick outlined budget pressures to the council, and it was agreed to reduce the number of PCSOs to 36.
Committee member Cllr Brian Cameron said: “Somebody’s got to pay for PCSOs – they don’t grow on trees. All I know is that if we cut them we’re not going to see any reduction in crime, we’re going to see an increase.
“What we have got now is better than what could possibly be proposed with the agreement ending.”
Cllr Carrie Harper, who does not sit on the committee, said she had been told PCSO numbers would reduce if the funding ended, and wanted to know if anti-social behaviour and complex issues in the town centre, as well as unprecedented pressures on the force, had been considered as part of a risk assessment.
Cllr Jones said he had been in dialogue with North Wales Police alongside council officers and had asked for a revised policing model, which would be considered alongside scrutiny comments and the public consultation before any decision is made.
Labour group leader Cllr Dana Davies, also not a committee member, said: “I think we have a responsibility for where the need is and I think we have to be looking as this from the point of view of what is needed rather than what is right.
“Wrexham, compared to the rest of the North Wales authorities, has a greater need at the moment in community safety and it’s very much public driven – and we’re seeing the results of that in the press.”
Committee member Trevor Bates said the council was “spending outside its responsibilities” with PCSO funding.
He had been told a police meeting with community councillors that there would not be a reduction in PCSO numbers if the funding was cut, and asked Cllr Jones if he thought there would be a decrease.
Committee chairman Cllr Derek Wright said Sgt Steve Owens was speaking at meetings with rural councillors, but could not speak for the town centre.
Cllr Jones said he had not received information such as had been given to Sgt Owens.
The committee noted Cllr Jones’ comments and looked forward to further information.