Only a fortnight ago I again called for more police officers to be employed in the communities of Taunton Deane rather than being posted to Bristol.

Since then, attempts have been made to stir controversy over the county council’s possible future level of funding for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) across the whole of Somerset.

It is alleged that this conflicts with my own views on policing when I wrote: “I still maintain the best deterrent of all is making sure we have enough police officers out there on the streets catching criminals.”

Far from it, however, as having ‘real’ police catching criminals is rather different from the public relations role of PCSOs.

PCSOs are not hired to catch criminals, and actually have no more powers than the recently-launched Street Pastors.

They carry out valuable work in assisting the police, hence the word ‘support’ in their title, but they are no substitute for frontline officers, or even Special Constables, who have powers of arrest.

I am hoping to persuade the council to maintain as much funding as possible for PCSOs, but I also understand the reasons why they have to look carefully at all of their spending.

Liberal Democrats left Somerset with record levels of debt, trebling it to £300 million in their last six years as they borrowed like there was no tomorrow.

Then, they lost £25 million with their risky investments in Icelandic banks offering interest rates which sounded too good to be true.

My Conservative colleagues were elected to sort out this financial mess and they are now facing some pretty tough decisions as a result.

We are also in the worst recession since records began, as Gordon Brown has similarly messed up the UK economy, and people are struggling to make ends meet.

The last thing the public wants is for council tax to keep rising like it did under the Lib Dems, so Conservatives have pledged to freeze it.

Which leads us back to tough choices.

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