13/04/2012 02:22 BST | Updated 13/04/2012 03:22 BST

Police Community Support Officers May Be Rebranded As Beat Officers In South Yorkshire

Proposals to rebrand community support officers are to be presented to the police authority.

Under the proposals being considered in South Yorkshire, PCSOs will become the "first line of contact" for the public, with the title local beat officer (LBO).

However, former home secretary David Blunkett has raised concerns about the proposals.

Regular officers would be grouped into so-called "taskable teams" available to deal with serious incidents, with PCSOs carrying out all grassroots work on the streets.

But Blunkett, who introduced PCSOs, urged caution.

He said: "Community support officers are intended to be part of neighbourhood beat teams and not a replacement for them. It would be deeply regrettable if we reverted to the Z-Cars era of flying squads and concentration on reaction rather than prevention.

"We learnt the lessons from that, which is why from the mid-1990s to the present time we have seen such a dramatic drop in crime."

Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, added: "I certainly would not be against PCSOs being given additional powers, but as part of neighbourhood policing, where warranted officers will always be required to conduct arrests, develop good scientific forensic investigations and build the kind of community policing which engages those living there rather than seeing the police as a crisis force only.

"However, the new chief constable and those overseeing the police service are faced with horrendous cuts imposed by the coalition government and there will undoubtedly have to be drastic measures to meet that financial challenge."

Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Federation, representing regular officers, told the Yorkshire Post: "This is just one more of the unintended consequences of the Government's budget cuts, and amounts to the removal of police officers from the streets. Warranted officers should be out there, visible. We would oppose the proliferation of powers to PCSOs and would have concerns over accountability if further powers are given to them."