Kingston police have defended their spend on PCSOs, after it was revealed they have handed out just 18 on the spot fines in the past three years.

The Metropolitan Police Federation criticised the £4.2m spent on the police community support officers and called for an independent review of their use across London.

The penalty notices for disorder were handed out for littering, graffiti, fly-posting or annoying neighbours by making a din and were revealed after a Freedom of Information request by the Surrey Comet.

PCSOs have powers to detain suspects until police arrive and to hand out fixed-penalty notices for a selection of traffic and public order offences.

They have fewer legal powers than a police officer but help with policing tasks.

The 86 PCSOs in Kingston will earn upwards of £25,000 a year depending on their shift patterns.

Police could not say how many crimes they had solved but said they had been involved in the investigation process as well as stopping about 9,000 people on the streets in three years.

Chief Inspector John Pendleton, who has responsibilities for safer neighbourhoods teams, had reservations about PCSOs when he took on the job four years ago but was won over by the work they do.

He described the 18 on the spot fines as “quite low” but said PCSOs were involved in “old-fashioned policing”, doing everything from raising police visibility to increasing knowledge of local criminals.

He said: “They do get injured and I do have some concerns about their level of safety equipment.

"Am I better off having 50 police officers? The answer is I don’t know. Maybe from a position of crime the answer is yes but that is not what members of the public are saying.

“They are saying it is important to see PCSOs and be able to speak to PCSOs and neighbourhood teams. We need to be guided by what the community wants.”

Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “I think that is very low.

"We have continually questioned the value of PCSOs and we have continually asked for a proper evaluation of their worth and what they provide for the public.

“There’s some good things they do but I’m not that happy paying £24,000 to someone to do not very much.”

Councillor Howard Jones, leader of Kingston Council’s Tory party and ex-police officer, said: “A proper review of the effectiveness of PCSOs and what they have achieved would be certainly a very purposeful document.

“My instinct is they do a good job. If I had a criticism it would be on the basis that it is policing on the cheap and the limited hours they work and powers they have.”

Leader of the council Councillor Derek Osbourne backed PCSOs but said although some councils contribute, Kingston felt the Met should cover their wages.

He said: “They really play a role in community policing and they have done a great deal to send the fear of crime down with their visible presence.”

• What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.