News that Gwent Police are to face cuts of more than £24 million over the next four years is not good news. this is a direct consequence of the Con Dem Westminster government's recent comprehensive spending review, which as everyone knows has seriously slashed public spending across the board. Gwent Police are now going to be engaged in a prolonged bout of belt tightening as the force comes to terms with seriously reduced funding.
The South Wales Argus (27.01.2011), notes that Gwent Police will announce its budget plans on the 9th February, when some of the detail as to how the force will cut some £3 million in 2011/12 on top of potential savings of £7.6 million made in 2010/11. The budget for 2010/11 was set at £121.616 million. The Argus also notes that the outgoing Chief Constable Mick Giannasi stated that officer numbers would not be cut during this financial year. Gwent Police Authority members were told that while the official figure is £22 million, the force has to allow ten percent cushion for any alterations in costs so in reality the figure is £24.6 million.
Retention of police Officers, on and off the beat, and civilian support staff should be the bottom line. Once you go down the line of cutting civilian support staff, which some may consider an easier and slightly more acceptable situation than reducing police numbers, there will be consequences. A reduction in civilian support staff numbers will inevitably lead to a reduction in the availability of operational police officers, which will have consequences for all of us.
Policing, just like everything else is driven by funding - this is the reality of modern (and old time) policing, our hard pressed Police Service (whether in Gwent, South Wales, Dyfed-Powys or North Wales) all need additional funding and an increase in the number of serving officers. On top of that our Police Officers actively need the active support of our communities, especially if we are seriously going to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour and to ensure proper Policing within our communities.
Now there is absolutely no reason why we cannot be far more creative when it comes to how are Communities are policed. We certainly need a more flexible approach to shift patterns to tackle those periods of the day when higher levels of criminal offences take place and need to actually respond to local communities real concerns rather than the Ministry of Justice's (formerly the Home Office) perceived priorities and targets.
We need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when it comes to basing Policing strategies on core or periphery because the end result is that some of our our communities will lose out when it comes to access to Police services and resources. If we want to curb crime in Wales, then it makes sense for the control of Policing as well as Justice and Prisons within Wales to be fully devolved to the National Assembly, much of this already happens in Scotland, are we less capable than the Scots or less of a nation than Scotland? - I think not!