Concerns have been raised over the lack of police presence in Richmondshire after it emerged a North Yorkshire Police efficiency drive to cut vehicles from its fleet had led to some community policing roles being hit.
A meeting of Richmondshire District Council heard members express anger at the latest inflation-busting rise in police precept as they claimed the force’s savings had consigned some rural PCSOs who had recently caught farm thieves, held village surgeries, visited schools and patrolled high streets to the office.
The claims follow the North Yorkshire and York police commissioner Julia Mulligan prioritising tackling rural crime and moving to increase community policing.
The meeting was told it had been confirmed the whole of North Yorkshire Police had been requested to review and reduce the entire vehicle fleet, including plain and marked vehicles and pool cars.
In Richmondshire alone, officers have been asked to surrender three vehicles which meant officers, PCSOs and police staff needed to be “more agile, flexible and efficient” with vehicles.
Hawes councillor Jill McMullon said: “I am very concerned, particularly for the deeply rural areas I represent, that PCSOs no longer have their vehicles and cannot do their job.
“They arrived at the police station one day to be told the vehicles had been removed in budget cuts, while I understand the commissioner had a £600,000 surplus this year.”
Cllr McMullon said when PCSOs had asked how they were to reach the communities, they were told “perhaps you can get a lift”.
She added the PCSO for the Upper Dales had been the only regular police presence in the 400sq mile area and when police officers visiting Hawes was such a rarity that residents would stop and stare.
The meeting heard the authority had recently examined the North Yorkshire Police rural task force, but there had been no mention of the changes despite being challenged over upcoming cutbacks.
The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Helen Grant said she was “absolutely disgusted” by the changes.
After the meeting Superintendent Sam Millar issued a statement revealing the force had identified a number of vehicles which were not fully utilised, which presented an opportunity to make more efficient use of its fleet.
She said: “Small reductions in vehicle numbers across some areas have been agreed with senior leaders across the force, in line with reviewed working practices to ensure the service to the public is not impacted. It is important to note that there are no cars dedicated solely for the use of PCSOs.
“There are a number of cars allocated to each district, and these cars are for use by all staff in those areas to deliver policing services to the community”.
Chairman of the county’s police and crime panel Councillor Carl Les said if the panel received community feedback on the vehicle cuts it would be a matter “we would feel obliged to raise with the commissioner”.
He added had the vehicle cuts been aired when the police precept was set, the panel might have considered the commissioner’s £600,000 surplus from last year should be spent ensuring all police staff could perform their community roles.