Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Emergency Services and the fourth estate

I was honoured to be invited to attend the Emergency Services Carol Service at Chester Cathedral last night.  It was a wonderful event celebrating the work of those who look after the community year round.  Many of the participants came from the police, fire and ambulance services as you'd expect - but we didn't forget the others, many of whom are volunteers, such as the RNLI, mountain rescue services.   

The Cheshire Police Brass Band led the music - although there were many other notable performances - all from our half of Cheshire taking central stage.  The Girls Choir from Chester's Catholic High School were spellbinding, Ellesmere Port's 'Fireflies' Ladies Choir was inspirational - and the young drummers from Kelsall Community Primary School were absolutely fantastic.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening - even if I was left with a point of curiosity.  Why is it that so many men are tone deaf - and especially where I was last night amongst the 'great and the good!' Fortunately they are not rated on their singing abilities - rather on the excellent work they do for our communities.

However before the service started I was met by a local chap from Frodsham who drew to my attention an article that had appeared in the Frodsham and Helsby edition of the Chronicle last week - where one FTC Cllr's remarks questioning the value for money of Frodsham's PCSO had received prominent billing.
Now far be it from me to question the prominence the local press gives to the remarks of one Councillor - especially when that one isn't me (yes - I am being 'tongue-in-cheek') - or indeed the headline writer's skill in selling a story - but I do wonder what happened here and how one squares a headline of 'FTC in dispute over funding police community support officer' with wording in the article of 'There was no suggestion ... that the town council may withdraw its PCSO funding.'  I don't see the story there really ... although time alone will tell. The vast majority of us in Frodsham support our local police and very much support the work of our PCSO - and I use the word 'our' deliberately - because Kay is 'our' PCSO - I am sure that we'd be a lesser place without her.

I do think there is an issue about PCSO funding - but not necessarily in Frodsham.  How is it that FTC funds a PCSO, so does Helsby PC and even Tarporley PC?  Tarporley's population is about 1/4 of Frodsham's.  

But isn't it something of a scandal that Northwich Town Council doesn't fund any PCSOs when it is twice the size of Frodsham or that Frodsham and Helsby together provided 2 PCSOs - for the c15,000 people we have - when CWaC provides 2 PCSO's for Northwich?  The Northwich Town Council area has a population of around 21,500.   ... and Northwich Town Council's precept is more than double that of Frodsham - and they have around 3 times the amount of money to spend in a year than Frodsham has and 9 times the amount of money that Tarporley has.

Northwich's PCSO's are funded by CWaC as they are in Ellesmere Port and in the inner part of Chester - however these communities don't have their own parish council... Is this a case of the rural communities having to pay twice for a service or paying for something to make sure they get it? 

It may be ... or does it simply show that it is impossible to have uniformity of provision and especially when there is a mix of parished and non parished areas... but that is another story for another time.