Issuing an apology, West Mercia Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss said local officers had told him about the shortage, and said a plan was in place to fill the posts using the “pipeline” of new recruits coming in to West Mercia Police
He was responding to a question from Police and Crime Panel member and Shropshire councillor Dave Tremellen, who said the local inspector and police constable had both been away and one of the two community support officers was off sick, leaving the other one alone.
Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said he was “disappointed” to hear about the shortage, and said he would investigate why the force, which controls 800 vehicles, was unable to provide one for the PCSO during that time.
Councillor Tremellen said: “Currently our local inspector is covering Shrewsbury, the Pc has been away training for the best part of two weeks and one of the PCSOs is off sick, which leaves us one PCSO to cover an area of 200 square miles.
“And, for three days during that period, she didn’t have a car. What’s going on?”
He was speaking during a discussion about the PCC’s Rural Crime Plan. Councillor Tremellen noted that the September update on the plan referred to “Operation Whitebeam”, a cross-border operation specifically targeting rural crime.
It said: “As part of the operation, police officers in South Shropshire patrolled areas around Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock and Highley, thereby showing an increase in police presence in rural areas to deter criminals and provide reassurance”.
Councillor Tremellen said this reference felt “ironic”.
“No-one in Highley was aware,” he said. “They were obviously very undercover!”
Councillor Tremellen said the local Safer Neighbourhood Team inspector had been “incredibly proactive and extremely helpful”, but there was nothing she can do to cover Highley if her bosses say they want her in Shrewsbury.
DCC Moss said he had spoken to officers on a recent visit to Ludlow and heard about the staffing problems in South Shropshire.
“I was assured there is now a plan in place to solve those staffing problems, but I’m sorry for the issues it has caused in the meantime,” he said.
"I will just make the broader point that the picture is much rosier looking forward. We have a pipeline of new officers every month.
“The good news it there are a lot of new officers coming through that will be very shortly available.”
Addressing the availability of a car, Mr Campion invited Councillor Tremellen to “drop me a line directly and I will pick up that issue”.