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City MP warns of "erosion" of police force as crime scenes to be guarded by civilians on zero hour contracts

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: PA

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

A city MP has warned of the "erosion" of the police force after it emerged crime scenes are to be guarded by civilians on zero hours contracts.

Police officers will be replaced by 'scene guards' on zero hours contracts at crime scene seals. Photo: Steve AdamsPolice officers will be replaced by 'scene guards' on zero hours contracts at crime scene seals. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis raised the issue in Parliament during a debate on the police funding settlement for the next financial year.

If the police element of council tax is raised by the maximum allowed without needing a referendum - £24 a year for a Band D property - Norfolk could benefit by £3.2m.

But Mr Lewis said that funding would be “wiped out” by a £3.4m reduction in pension contributions.

“Norfolk Constabulary has been enforced to endure eight years of inadequate funding settlements,” he said. “Over 100 officers have been lost from our streets and all of our PCSOs have been entirely abolished.

“10 police stations have been shut and the only one left open in Norwich is no longer even open all week.

“The consequences in our area has been stark. Never since records began has recorded crime or knife crime been as high as it is today.

“Unresolved crime is at an almost unthinkable 2m cases, topped off with serious crime predicted to increase by 29pc.

“Norfolk will see an extra £3.2m in this funding settlement, but this will be totally wiped out by a £3.4m cut in pensions contributions from the Treasury.

“As ever this government offers a penny with one hand while the other is in your pocket taking a pound.

“Norfolk Constabulary has taken the unprecedented decision to totally abolish PCSOs. At the time I warned this would set a dangerous precedent.

“Now we have the latest twist in this tale of cuts and under-funding.”

This week it emerged Norfolk Constabulary is recruiting civilians on zero hour contracts to guard crime scene seals.

The role used to be fulfilled by community support officers, but since they were lost constables have been forced to plug the gap.

Around 32 applications have been made for the role, many of whom are former police officers.

“As the chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation said, ‘with austerity, standing at a cordon is a luxury we can’t afford’,” Mr Lewis continued.

“Not only will this mean there is no job security or guarantees, but the local police force will be potentially vulnerable to these employees simply saying ‘no thanks’.

“They can’t be expected to be beholden to every beck and call if they are not going to be given the respect of a real working contract that works in their interests.

“Where does that leave our police force?

“Who will be responsible if there is no one to cover this vital role of guarding a crime scene?.

“Who will be liable if a crime scene is breached or a witness lost if a civilian contractor has responsibility?

“How do you avoid the risk an ever expanding casual civilian work force is an easy target for criminal exploitation, infiltration or corruption?

“How long until this becomes a path to full privatisation of entire roles currently the responsibility of the police?

“The next step will either be an erosion of the police force including pay and conditions, or eroding their function one step at a time.”

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