Reduced PCSO cover in parts of Cheshire 'caused by rent cuts'

PCSO generic Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Many housing associations fund dedicated Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

Two housing associations in Cheshire have stopped funding Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), blaming rent reductions imposed by the government.

Chancellor George Osborne announced last summer that social housing rents would fall by 1% each year until 2019.

The housing providers said this forced them into "very difficult decisions" over whether they could still afford PCSOs to cover their properties.

Cheshire Police said the areas affected would still have policing cover.

In letters to senior police officers which have seen by the BBC, Weaver Vale housing trust and the Warrington-based Golden Gates trust both blame the government.

In his July 2015 announcement, Mr Osborne said there would be "a welcome cut in rent for... tenants... and I'm confident that housing associations and other landlords in the social sector will be able to play their part and deliver the efficiency savings needed."

The measure is also intended to help the public finances - by reducing the amount of rent covered by housing benefit.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Sheltered housing in Northwich, one area formerly covered by a dedicated PCSO

'Very difficult decisions'

In a letter to Cheshire Constabulary, Weaver Vale Housing Trust said the rent reduction "has led the trust to make some very difficult decisions in order to make the savings required, one of which is to withdraw our contribution to Police Community Support Officers."

Golden Gates Housing Trust said: "Our Board has had to make very difficult decisions which are resulting in a significant reduction to our core and discretionary service provision.

"Unfortunately, this means that we are not in a position to continue to provide financial support."

Supt Luke McDonnell of Cheshire Police said local PCSOs will still cover the affected areas but acknowledged "greater flexibility around their deployment will sit with the Chief Inspector for the local policing unit".

An extra 70 police officers are due to be recruited to Cheshire Police over the next financial year after the chancellor's decision to scrap planned cuts to policing budgets.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The housing association sector is in a robust financial position, having made a surplus of £3bn last year.

"They should be able to find efficiencies while continuing to deliver services tenants want."