THE number of special constables has fallen up almost half since 2011, according to new figures.

Over the last decade the number of special constables in Wiltshire has dropped by 48 per cent.

The latest Home Office figures show that in March – the latest data available – Wiltshire Police had 154 special constables.

In the year up to March 2020 the same figure was 193.

READ MORE: Appeal launched after extension plans rejected

Voluntary officers have been in decline since at least 2015, with a period of increased numbers between 2018/19.

The force said that for the last 12 to 18 months it has paused its special constable recruitment drive. This is primarily due to the pandemic, a police spokesman added: "But also as we realign our initial training to the new Special Constabulary Police Educational Qualification Framework (PEQF).

"The reduction in Special Constabulary numbers has been seen nationally and this is not simply exclusive to Wiltshire."

Wiltshire Times: No of Wiltshire Police special constables by yearNo of Wiltshire Police special constables by year

Out of the 39 specials who have left the service between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 some 31 left to become a police officer or PCSO in Wiltshire Police or another force.

"A decade is a long time to make comparisons with many internal and external factors coming into play.

"In previous years Wiltshire has had a number of different recruitment drives linked to the special constabulary and these have resulted in increased numbers.

"Over time however these numbers in have been eroded due to natural attrition and as a direct result of additional government investment in regular officers (Op Uplift).

"Many people have joined as Specials but then naturally transitioned across as a regular officer."

READ MORE: Trans councillor says Police & Crime Commissioner’s statements caused ‘significant alarm and distress’

Supt Phil Staynings, who has responsibility for the special constabulary in Wiltshire Police said: “Over the last 18 months we have conducted a robust internal audit with special constables who have been inactive for many months.

"As a result, we are now left with a cohort of active special constables who are adding significant value to the force and the wider community.”

“In June this year, the force commenced special constabulary recruitment again using the Special Constabulary Policing Qualification Framework (SCPEQF) to train its volunteers. Wiltshire has been one of the first forces to start this programme.

"At the time of writing a third cohort of special constables have begun this programme and the force has a pool of willing volunteers waiting to join future courses well into 2022.

READ MORE: Man order to demolish unauthorised building by Wiltshire Council launches appeal

“We are due to reopen recruitment in October 2021 after a successful recruitment campaign in 2020, we will be looking to recruit approximately 60 new specials every year into the new SCPEQF course.

“Wiltshire is now focusing on quality as opposed to quantity and with a revised and improved training programme we are seeing dedicated committed volunteers entering our organisation.”