'˜Backtrack' on promise of eight constables for Leighton Buzzard

Bedfordshire Police is coming under fire after apparently backtracking on plans for eight constables to be based in Leighton Buzzard.

At a meeting with shopkeepers following the spate of town centre burglaries last month, a PCSO allegedly said that just one constable – supported by seven PCSOs – would be assigned to the town.

In November, Bedfordshire Police had announced that a community policing team of one sergeant and eight constables would be based at the joint facility at Leighton Buzzard Fire Station.

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One shopkeeper said: “We are really angry that while they were selling the police station for development they put a huge notice out there telling us about eight new police officers for Leighton Buzzard, which was obviously just a load of rubbish.”

When questioned by the LBO, a Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “Our aim is to have a combination of police officers and PCSOs – totalling eight – working out of the new co-location facility at the Leighton Buzzard Fire Station.”

The apparent backtracking over the force’s promise of eight officers was greeted with dismay.

Cllr Amanda Dodwell stated: “As recently as the Police and Crime Panel in April, I was given assurances that there would be eight police constables based in the new facility at Leighton Buzzard Fire Station.

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“Since then, I have met with the Chief Constable, and he gave me no reason to believe that this would not be the case. If, has been suggested, we are to get seven PCSOs and just one constable, then I am very disappointed.

“Whilst PCSOs play a role in community policing, they have no power of arrest and therefore their effectiveness is somewhat limited. We need fully warranted officers who can exercise the full range of Police powers: PCSOs should be provided in support of regular officers, not in place of.

“The response that the LBO has received from Bedfordshire Police does little to clarify the situation – indeed, the ambiguity of their reply would tend to add credibility to the rumour. Although my tenure on the Police and Crime Panel has now ended, I will be seeking clarification from the chief constable and the PCC on this matter, and if the rumour does prove to be true, my colleagues and I will do everything we can to reverse this decision.”