Candidates to be Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s next police and crime commissioner (PCC) are unanimously calling on the force to shelve its planned cuts until after May’s elections.
Plans to halve the number of police community support officers (PCSOs), disband the community safety officer team and close all but two enquiry offices were announced in September.
They would result in 53 job losses and hinder Cambridgeshire residents’ access to justice, warns UNISON.
But after a virtual meeting with affected staff, Conservative candidate Darryl Preston, Labour’s Nicky Massey and Liberal Democrat hopeful Rupert Moss-Eccardt issued a joint statement urging Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Nick Dean and acting PCC Ray Bisby to hold fire.
It reads: “As candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we all agree that the decision should be postponed until after the May elections to enable a proper process, including public scrutiny by the democratically elected representative of our county.”
Ray Bisby took over as PCC in November 2019 when the elected commissioner resigned. He had been due to step down at the May 2020 election but that has been delayed to May 2021 because of Covid-19.
UNISON Eastern regional organiser Alex Porter said: “We welcome this clear message uniting the political spectrum against these harmful police cuts.
“Slashing the police team will hit communities across Cambridgeshire, with the county’s most vulnerable suffering the most.
“It’s not right for an unelected PCC – who should have been out of office six months ago – to wreck neighbourhood policing. The constabulary must do the right thing and delay any decision until after the election.”
Conservative candidate Darryl Preston said: “I have been contacted by many residents who have serious concerns regarding these cuts.
“I have therefore written to the chief constable requesting that the decision to remove these posts be postponed until after the May PCC elections.
“This will enable for an elected representative of the residents of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to scrutinise this decision on their behalf, ensuring they are in receipt of an effective and efficient police service meeting the needs of all our residents.”
Labour candidate Nicky Massey said: “Culling the community safety team and cutting the number of PCSOs by half is short sighted.
“Our communities value their working relationships with their PSCOs, who often attend neighbourhood and resident meetings and who are part of the very community they work in. Losing that connection is losing further public confidence in our local policing.
“The plan need to be stopped in its tracks and that is what I would plan to do if I am elected in May 2021.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Rupert Moss-Eccardt said: “I was horrified to learn of the planned cuts to police staff numbers.
“It is clearly the wrong direction and I am yet to see any proper assessment of the impact of cuts.
“These damaging cuts must be stopped until they can be proven to be necessary and the full impact has been considered. I don’t think either has been proven at the moment.”