Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Last time I checked we had four police forces in Wales: Dyfed-Powys, South Wales, North Wales and Gwent, I say that because with Cameron cost cutting agenda you never know if they will be merged or privatised to cut costs. From November there will be four elected Police Commissioners, nominally this should make Policing democratically accountable to local people but the speed and severity of the cuts and the creation of shared services (some very sensible) means that any new Police Commissioners may not have very much to do or manage.

The concept of elective police commissioners is very American, and may be no bad thing, but, is under the Con Dems little more than window dressing, a token gesture towards responsible and accountable policing. The actual reality is that, even with elected Police Commissioners, the people of Wales have less say over policing in their own communities than people in Jersey, Guernsey, and the inhabitants of the Isle of Man.

In Scotland, policing has always been a devolved function; it is time for it to be devolved here in Wales. Welsh government ministers in Cardiff should have a far greater understanding of local policing needs and the expectations of our communities than some distant political appointee in the Ministry of Justice.

The UK government is rigorously pursuing its ideologically driven public sector cost cutting agenda. They need to drop their proposals to make damaging cuts to our police service which has hitting officers' and support staff's morale hard. Last week we had the sight of tens of thousands of angry off-duty officers marching through London protesting about the cuts and the proposed changes in working practises.

A twenty percent cut to the policing budget will leave our communities and their residents much more vulnerable to crime, and put even further strain on our remaining police officers who already carry out difficult jobs, and the changes proposed by the Winsor Review will only make things worse.

At the end of the day, regardless of the reluctance of the current Welsh Government in Cardiff to do anything, the Welsh people have a fundamental democratic right to have a greater say in something so fundamental to civilised community life as policing. Policing is only one side of the coin, to make devolved policing work, there is also a need to devolve control of criminal justice.

I am convinced more than ever that now is the time is right to hold an open debate on devolving policing powers to the Welsh Government in Cardiff. Devolving policing powers would increase the accountability of the Welsh Government, strengthen the democratic process by allowing decisions which directly impact on the Welsh people to be made (and reviewed) here in Wales.

The Con Dem cuts may shape policing and set the policing agenda here in Wales for the next twenty years. Fundamentally policing decisions in Wales need to reflect the needs and concerns of our communities, not the cost cutting agenda of the current Home Secretary and the Ministry of Criminal Justice in London.

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