Should people in Felixstowe have to pay twice for the policing of their town?
PUBLISHED: 20:36 17 November 2018 | UPDATED: 20:36 17 November 2018
Community leaders in Felixstowe have agreed to spend £68,000 to fund an extra police officer for the town to deal with specific problems.
The aim will be to make people feel safer by increasing the visibility of police on the resort’s streets.
The extra Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) will also tackle illegal parking and hand out fixed penalty tickets, deal with low-level anti-social behaviour, and growing issues of begging and homelessness.
It means drivers will face fines if they park in the shared space in Hamilton Road between Boots and Bank Corner – only blue badge holders are allowed to park and only in the black bays – or if they park outside Barclays Bank and all along that side of the road to Bent Hill, plus other hot spots.
But opponents say funding a PCSO will mean the public paying twice for policing – because residents already pay for Suffolk police in their council tax – and such a scheme could be the “thin end of the wedge”.
Felixstowe Town Council has agreed to fund an officer for two years.
Steve Gallant, vice chairman of the finance and general purposes committee, stressed that Felixstowe was a safe town with low crime but there were issues which were currently a low priority for the police and the council would be able to set the priorities for the PCSO’s work.
He said: “This is in order to address what we saw as the lack of visible policing and enforcement that is being carried out in our town.
“I think most members of the council would really like to have seen the police stepping up to the mark but understand the constraints that their budgets put upon them. The stance of this council in the past has been to apply pressure to the constabulary to provide better level of policing for the town.
“But you can only push that so far and at some point we have to understand the constraints that are being placed on the constabulary and the way their priorities are set. I think if we said today we have got £500,000 here, do we spend that on reducing the levels of child sex exploitation within Suffolk or car parking enforcement – we know where the priorities go?
“Those are real issues that are happening across the county. We have got child sex exploitation, county lines, serious significant drug issues, stabbings and significant assaults happening in Ipswich, and in Lowestoft across to Newmarket, all linked to county lines and all linked to crimes coming out of London.
“So this is the reality and we can push and we can push, we can demand and we can stamp our feet that we want someone to do parking enforcement but where would your priorities be if you had to make those decisions?
“So we have to realise we are not going to get it – we are not going to get the constabulary to start dealing with parking.”
Civil parking enforcement – where district councils will take over the role of on-street had parking enforcement – has been delayed for two years.
Mr Gallant said: “So as a town council we can either sit back and say that’s not our problem it’s for the police to sort out, or we can look at what the council’s priorities are. So we are asking the town council and good people of Felixstowe to out their hands in their pockets – some might say it is double pay because we pay for policing in our precept already and we are getting policing, but what we are not getting is parking enforcement.”
One of the major bugbears in the town is illegal parking in the town centre – particularly in the shared space scheme and outside Barclays Bank in Hamilton Road.
Under the arrangement, the officer will be required to give a full report of his work each month, including how many parking tickets he had issued.
Councillor Mike Deacon feared the project was the “thin end of the wedge”.
He said: “The people of Felixstowe already pay for their town to be policed and quite a lot of money, and it’s my opinion that the policing should be what we deserve and what we get. This is not a criticism of the existing service, but what’s to say in a couple of years’ time there will not be another issue and we have to have two PCSOs and the police retract more and more of their services? What happens if the police service becomes so enfeebled that people have to start paying for personal safety guards? You can see it going on and on.”
He believed extra funding should be sought from Whitehall or people should pay more in council tax.
Deputy mayor Tracey Green said the PCSO would be able to gather low-level intelligence, help people on a day to day basis, provide a bobby on the street.
She said a high percentage of police funds were being spent dealing with a small percentage of people, taking all their resources, dealing with hidden crimes such as heavy drug abuse, including heroin addiction in the town, and domestic violence to keep the community safe.