A police force could become the first to scrap its PCSOs, stating the cost of the role is not significantly different to that of a police constable but they have fewer powers.

Norfolk Police announced plans to remove all 150 of its police community support officer (PCSO) roles as part of what its chief constable described as the “most extensive review in the force’s history”.

This would save £1.6 million and allow investment in 97 positions supporting front line policing, totalling 81 officers and 16 staff roles, the force said.

A Norfolk Police spokesman said: “Now that the organisational cost of a PCSO is not significantly different to a PC, the proposal would not be to maintain or reinvest in PCSOs.”

A consultation began on Thursday, and if plans are approved Norfolk Police would be the first force to get rid of its PCSOs.

The PCSO role was introduced in 2002 to tackle the fear of crime and provide back-up to forces, but PCSOs are not permitted to arrest people, or process or interview prisoners.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “These are radical plans which come at a critical time when the police service is facing unparalleled growth in complex crime together with reduced policing budgets.”

He added: “The plans announced today, I believe, will deliver the most responsive police service for Norfolk, meeting the needs of our communities while protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said they were radical plans (Norfolk Police/PA)Chief Constable Simon Bailey said they were radical plans (Norfolk Police/PA)

The plans would also see the closure of seven police stations and seven front counter services, to allow for investment in detective resources, with 31 new roles created.

The review, called Norfolk 2020, was launched against a background of unprecedented increases in complex crimes such as adult and child abuse, sexual offences and cyber-crime, the force said.

It aims to achieve £10 million of savings before 2020, and the proposals place 176 members of staff at risk of redundancy.

Home Office figures show that there were 10,213 PCSOs across forces in England and Wales at the end of March.

The number has fallen each year since reaching a peak of nearly 17,000 in 2010.

The union that represents PCSOs across Norfolk said plans to axe the role will make the county less safe.

Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s eastern regional secretary, said: “PCSOs don’t just wander around the county in uniform to reassure the public, they also do valuable work that helps keep everyone safe.

“If the Norfolk Constabulary goes ahead and gets rid of its PCSOs, the work they currently do tackling low-level crime and anti-social behaviour will either stop altogether, or fall to already hard-pressed police officers and staff to deal with.

“But the true villain of the piece here is the Government, which has ruthlessly slashed police budgets, so forces have had to do more with less.

“It’s no coincidence that as PCSO jobs have disappeared across the UK, crime rates have soared.”