MONEY put aside to pay for extra community policing in Hythe and Dibden has been spent on other services instead, the parish council has admitted.
Residents at the council’s meeting were shocked to hear that the funds, collected via an increase in council tax specifically for two accredited community safety officers (ACSOs), had not been ring-fenced since the departure of the two previous post-holders.
As reported in the A&T, Norman Bareham had worked as an ACSO for seven years but stood down in 2016 after he was given an absolute discharge by Southampton magistrates for assaulting a minor while on duty.
His daughter, Louise Brearley, who had been an ACSO for five years, left shortly after.
Since then the council has repeatedly tried to recruit a police community support officer (PCSO) but hit a wall after Hampshire Constabulary announced it would not be hiring any more until 2019.
Attending his first meeting as a parish councillor since the local elections on 2nd May, Cllr Allan Fairhead queried the lack of funds after viewing the council’s accounts.
He said: “I have been asking this question for ages [as a resident]. Now people are asking me where the money is.
“The money for the PCSOs was meant to be set aside. We’re paying for a service that we aren’t getting.”
Parish clerk Stephanie Bennett confirmed that as the allocated money for community support officers had not been ring-fenced, it had gone in to the council’s general funds.
This has been spent by the council on various works, such as repairs to its offices in The Grove.
Mrs Brearley, who attended the meeting with her father, said: “We agreed to have an increase in council tax to fund a service, but that is no longer in existence.
“As a resident I would like to see the service reinstated, but also to know, where is my money?”
She added: “It was sold to the community that it was to pay for a community service, not to pay for recreation grounds. We’ve been sold a false sense of security.”
Newly-elected council chairman Cllr Malcolm Wade said the former ACSO service had been “invaluable”.
He continued: “We need to give Hythe this service, which is in the budget. It would be inappropriate to comment on the previous council’s policy but they did try to get the PCSOs back, but the police could not deliver them.
“The past is gone. There are only three councillors here now from the last council. We are going to effect change but you’ve got to give us a chance.”
Cllr Wade asked for the item to be put on to the agenda for next month’s meeting so the matter could be discussed in more detail.