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COMMISSIONER SETS OUT PLANS TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC IN SOUTH WALES

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner L

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, will present the Police and Crime Plan for 2014 to the Police and Crime Panel for South Wales next Monday, 20 January, from 11.30am, at the Orbit Centre, Merthyr Tydfil.

At the meeting with the Panel Mr Michael will also set out his proposals for the police element of council tax.

Mr Michael said: “The plan for 2014 represents the next stage of a journey to achieving the goals I set out on election. In October 2012 I set out my objective of being tough on crime and the causes of crime. I am very pleased that the Chief Constable and his team are working with me and my team to both develop the policing service in South Wales and to work with our partners to reduce crime and the environment which allows crime to flourish.

“This is particularly challenging at a time of severe cuts by Central Government. There are places in other parts of England and Wales where there is a fear that the consistent downward trend in crime is in danger of being reversed. We are not prepared for that to happen in South Wales and even after the heavy cuts of the last three years, we are seeing improved performance, increased victim satisfaction and enhanced partnership work, for which I want to thank our seven local authorities and other partners, as well as the police themselves.

“The changes in the updated Police and Crime Plan intend to build on that strong base and to meet the challenges of severe cuts, which affect both the police and our partners.

"Setting the precept level is a difficult decision. I have to take into consideration a number of issues, in particular getting the balance right between the financial burden on the public of South Wales and the risks involved in reducing police numbers. I have not yet finalised the level of council tax precept for 2014-15, but the balance of the public’s needs and those of the police are at the forefront of my mind. These are views I will discuss with the panel and then seek views from the public.”

A number of options have been put forward to the Police and Crime Panel, ranging from an increase of 10p per week to 24p per week for a Band D household.

Mr Michael continued: “The differences in the increase are small, but have a big impact on the police funding. While I have not finalised the precept, what can be guaranteed is that South Wales will continue to have the lowest precept level in Wales. Currently our residents are paying around £42 less per year than North Wales, for example.

“The need to increase the precept has been forced upon us by the continued devastating cuts imposed by the Government in Westminster. South Wales Police has faced massive funding cuts over the last few years, and this has been borne with significant difficulty. To have additional cuts on top of these is both reckless and irresponsible by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“Since the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, this Government has reversed two decades of investment in the police service, and frankly this is disgraceful. What cannot be underestimated is the enormous contribution the Welsh Government has provided to community safety. Their input has significantly improved links with local communities, by funding for 206 additional Community Support Officers in South Wales alone.

“Over the last 12 months, I have met with representatives over 150 organisations, some of them several times. I am currently meeting Councillors across the political spectrum in every part of South Wales in addition to my regular meetings with Council Leaders and Chief Executives. Everyone I have met has spoken of their determination to work in partnership in order to tackle community safety issues. They have also been full of praise for the work of neighbourhood policing teams in general, and Community Supports Officers in particular. This sense of common purpose great news for South Wales, and this has been achieved with the lowest precept level in Wales. By working together we can create efficiency savings by not duplicating on our work.

“Not only that, but in the last year I have worked with others to start projects which will create long-term reductions in crime and disorder in relation to priorities like cutting violent crime and reducing reoffending against the 18-25 age group. Not only will this work save time and money for the police and other partners, it will reduce the number of victims and have a big impact on our communities as they will help to deliver even safer communities.

“For years, South Wales Police has been seriously disadvantaged in our funding…and next year will be no different. Around 65% of our budget is received from the Home Office funding. This is based on the outcomes of a formula, which takes account of different aspects of policing, including the size of the force, and the area it has to police.

“But the system works in perverse and unexpected ways. Instead of receiving the full amount the formula says we need to police South Wales appropriately, a significant amount is taken from us and re-allocated to the other three Welsh police forces to give them a minimum amount of funding. This year, we have lost £9million because of this absurd practice.

“This is further compounded by more unfairness compared to many English forces, who receive an ‘Area Cost Adjustment’ grant, which we have not been given, but if we had received it would be equal to around £3million. The Home Office also refuses to give additional funding to South Wales for policing Cardiff, our nation’s Capital City, yet they are top-slicing us and all other forces in England and Wales to help the City of London, which is the richest square mile in the country. The challenges and costs of policing this are real and significant…but it is not reflected in our funding. This is something that I and the Chief Constable have raised with the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister on a number of occasions.

“I have been given assurances that this will be considered when the funding formula is reviewed…but the earliest this will happen is 2016-17. Until then, our funding situation will get worse and worse. The funding formula for the police service is long overdue for review, and I advise Ministers to look at this as a matter of urgency, and not something to be ignored.

“It is very disappointing that we are still not getting the full amount of grant we need to police South Wales. The Force has worked tirelessly to cope with the cut in resources and everyone – from the Chief Constable to police officers and staff members at every level – deserves our respect and praise for their commitment and continued energy in serving the public. We have spelt out in detail the unfairness in this, and I will renew the attempt to persuade Ministers that enough is enough and this should be addressed.”

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