Wednesday, 30 March 2011


The questionable savings that may be made by the closure of local police stations in Gwent can only ever be short term and are a symptom of a bigger problem. Policing, like everything else is driven by funding - this is the reality of modern policing, cash strapped Gwent Police needs additional funding and an increase in the number of serving officers.

Closing local police stations (Castleton, Duffyrn, Llanhilleth, Llanmartin and Rassau have been named by The South Wales Argus as to being at risk) might save some pounds but will not help our Police Officers who 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.

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 serious consequences. The retention of police Officers (on and off the beat) and civilian support staff should be the bottom line. 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.

Gwent Police are up against it what with possible cuts of more than £24 million over the next four years. 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 going to be busy with a serious bout of belt tightening as the force comes to terms with seriously reduced funding.

A report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) sets out for the first time a definition of what constitutes front-line policing, amid a growing political debate about how chief constables should make cuts. HMIC's definition says that front-line policing is those who are "in everyday contact with the public and who directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law".

The report found that 68% of all police force staff in England and Wales were in such roles, but not all were visible. The HMIC estimates that 61% of police officers and community support officers work in visible front-line positions and that 12% of them are available at any given time.

There may be a shortage of money, although as has been noted the UK Government was pretty quick to find the reserves to bail out the banks (bonuses and all) and can always seem to find the money to fund in this case the UN approved (and therefore legal) military action in Libya (UN approved and legal - that makes a pleasant change from the days of Blair).

Now there is absolutely no reason why we cannot be far more creative when it comes to how are Communities are policed. Lets certainly look at 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 certainly 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. One key thing to remember is that if you are going to spend public money then make sure that you work it hard.

Another thing to remember here is accountability, those who spend public money need to be properly accountable to the public. Mr's Thatcher severely weakened the democratic element in the old Police Authorities, following the proposed Tory model of elected Police Chief is not really an option.

So if we want to solve, curb or reduce 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 Welsh Government, are we less capable than the people of Northern Ireland, or the Scots or less of a nation than Scotland?

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