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‘Be fair’ on funding for rural policing

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Christopher Salmon: Front-line police are safe

Christopher Salmon: Front-line police are safe

CONSERVATIVE MPs and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys have written to the Home Secretary expressing concerns about planned changes to funding allocation across the police force.

The letter, which has been signed by Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, as well as Glyn Davies and Chris Davies, and Christopher Salmon, urges Theresa May to ‘support fair funding for rural areas’.

The letter goes on to say that ‘measures proposed as part of the formula focus heavily on density. Deprivation, measured by people living in flats, for example, or estate density, does not reflect rural reality well. Flats may be less common in rural areas, and estates less dense, but the deprivation is just as real. Bar density measured by the hectare seriously misunderstands Dyfed- Powys. The force covers 1m hectares, twice the size of Thames Valley Police. The majority of these hectares are agricultural where bars are clearly not a problem. In towns where bars and clubs are concentrated, however, alcohol has much the same effect as elsewhere. A ‘per hectare’ formula misses this.’

At present, Police funding is allocated based on the Police Allocation Formula. This is based on the estimated workload of each police force area, and covers:

  • C rime related activity
  • N on-crime activity (eg providing public reassurance or road traffic accident assistance)
  • P olicing special events
  • P olicing sparsely-populated areas
  • W orkload weighting calculation for cost and time which include an area cost adjustment for variation in labour market costs in different areas.

The proposed new funding model will ‘be based on three broad levels that capture the drivers of crime and demand on police time,’ according to the review. These are:

  • Population levels
  • The underlying characteristics of the local population
  • The environmental characteristics of police force areas.

The police budget has already been reduced by as much as 26% over the last five years, and any changes in the way that this money is allocated could have serious repercussions for policing in rural areas.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Christopher Salmon explained why he shared his concerns with the Home Secretary, and reaffirmed his commitment to protecting front-line policing.

Mr Salmon said that the proposed budget changes were based on two separate things; a comprehensive spending review which will reduce the overall budget by between 25 and 40 percent, and a review of the formula, which decides how the money is allocated. This second part could have a potentially serious impact on Dyfed Powys Police force.

“I was very keen, along with my parliamentary colleagues to make the case for rural police forces,” he said, pointing out that they faced very different challenges, including the need to keep buildings open, and greater fuel costs. “I don’t work for the Home Office, I work for the people of Dyfed-Powys,” he added.

Police Minister Mike Penning has previously said: “The current model for allocating police funding is complex, opaque and out of date. This consultation sets out proposals to deliver a police funding model for the future which is fair, robust and transparent.”

Mr Salmon agreed with this synopsis: “The formula does need changing, no one disputes that. It is opaque and we need clarity. As P&CC I am responsible for all money spent.

“It is right that they change it, my concern is that the formula is fair to rural areas.”

When we quoted figures suggesting that the police budget had already been cut by 26% in the last five years, Mr Salmon thought that the figure was nearer to 20%, but agreed that significant cuts had been made.

In terms of future reductions, he said “Civil service departments will be asked to provide models, but in Dyfed Powys we are anticipating cuts of 5.5% per year.”

When we asked what the effects of these hypothetical cuts would be, Mr Salmon told us that he believed Dyfed Powys Police force could still make ‘significant savings.’

“These would be in the area of management – less ‘bosses in the office’, he said. “We could also work more closely with other bodies like the fire and rescue service.

Mr Salmon insisted that whatever reductions were made, front line policing would be protected.

“As long as I’m in the job, I will protect front-line services. Dyfed- Powys has already made savings of £8.8m, at the same time as recruiting 30 extra officers. Crime and anti-social behaviour have gone down by 12%

When we asked about comments made by the Chief Constable of North Wales Mike Polin, who said that the Police force would “bear the brunt” of Home Office budget cuts, Mr Salmon said that he was broadly right, in that the police force received the largest part of the Home Office Budget, but he stressed that it was up to the Home Office to decide where they made their savings.

We pointed out to Mr Salmon that while the police force across the country has been reduced in size by around 17,000 police officers and 3,000 PCSOs over the last 5 years, Dyfed Powys has actually increased the size of their front-line force.

“That’s down to better management and better leadership,” he said.

As an example of savings made that have seemed unpopular, we asked Mr Salmon about the cessation of monitored CCTV in Carmarthen Town Centre.

“I completely understand people may seem nervous about changes, but there was no evidence to support CCTV monitoring. This year crime rates in Carmarthen are down,” he said.

“I make these difficult decisions to protect front line policing, and I will continue to do this for as long as I am in the job.”

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Further coronavirus restriction relaxations brought forward

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FURTHER changes to the coronavirus restrictions have been announced by the First Minister Mark Drakeford today.

The Welsh Government has confirmed further relaxations will be brought forward from 17 May to 3 May – including the resumption of indoor supervised activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, such as exercise classes, and the re-opening of community centres.

This means Wales will have completed the move to Alert Level 3 by Monday 3 May.

From Saturday 24 April, the rule of 6 will allow for up to six people from six households to meet outdoors, not including children under 11 years of age or carers from those households.

The Welsh Government has also confirmed the relaxations that will take place on Monday 26 April. Outdoor attractions, including outdoor swimming pools, funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen, while outdoor hospitality can also resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people will be able to take place and weddings receptions can begin again outdoors for up to 30 people.

Wales has the lowest coronavirus rates of the UK nations.  The successful vaccine programme continues with a higher proportion of people vaccinated in Wales than other nations of the UK for both first and second doses.

Changes from Monday 3 May:

  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities being able to reopen;
  • People will also again be able to form extended households with one other household.

Relaxations planned for 17 May will be brought forward to the 3 May, including:

  • The resumption of indoor supervised activities for children;
  • Indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults (such as exercise classes and swimming lessons);
  • And the re-opening of community centres.

The First Minister said:

“The sacrifices we have made continue to show results. By us all working together and sticking to the rules, combined with our vaccination programme, mean we continue to make progress. Rates of the virus continue to fall and the public health situation is improving. 

“Due to these efforts we are able confirm more easing of the restrictions from 26 April and for early May we are again able to bring forward some of our plans. However, this progress is dependent on all of us continuing to work together to keep Wales safe.

“At the last three-week review, I set out a forward-look of how the restrictions could continue to be lifted in the weeks ahead, if the public health situation remains stable.

“It will be for the incoming Welsh Government to confirm these arrangements at the next three-week review, which will be held on May 13 – a week after the election. It is my assessment that the hospitality sector – bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes – will be able to open indoors from May 17, together with all other tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions.”

Further possible easements are subject to the public health situation remaining favourable.

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Tragedy above Milford Haven takeaway

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DYFED POWYS POLICE has confirmed that a 20-year-old male passed away in Milford Haven last Saturday, April 17.

Police were called to the USA Fried Chicken store on Charles Street at around 1:30pm but have said there are no suspicious circumstances.

A Herald reporter was at the scene and witnessed a number of police cars and an ambulance while plain-clothed officers were also seen.

HM Coroner has been informed.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “We were called to Charles Street in Milford Haven on Saturday 17 April at approximately 1.34pm to reports of a medical emergency. We attended the scene with one emergency ambulance where we assisted colleagues from the police.”

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Health

Tavernspite School the ‘healthiest of schools despite the pandemic’

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THE STAFF, governors, parents, and of course, the children of Tavernspite Community Primary School are delighted to gain the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes National Quality Award for an incredible 5th time after a recent and very rigorous assessment.

The school is already well known and highly regarded for its outstanding work in developing the health and wellbeing of all members of its school community. To achieve this prestigious recognition in the midst of a pandemic is all the more impressive. 

Health and Wellbeing at the school is led by teacher, Lauren Arthur, who has done an incredible job preparing for this re-assessment and raising the profile of the Healthy Schools scheme.

The assessor Mrs Lynne Perry, enjoyed a virtual tour and presentation by Year 3 pupils who took great pleasure in proudly showing Mrs Perry all the wonderful work the school has done to ensure its children are safe, happy with high levels of emotional and physical wellbeing.

In her report, Mrs Perry wrote, ‘Tavernspite School continues to be an outstanding health promoting school. The health promoting school ethos is evident across the whole school population and it runs seamlessly throughout everything that the school does. Tavernspite School continues to give high priority to promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of the whole school community.’

The school received fantastic support from Mrs Liz Western, Senior Public Health Officer and Lead for Healthy Schools and Pre-schools, Pembrokeshire, to whom they are very grateful.

Head teacher Kevin Phelps said, ‘We were delighted to receive this award for the fifth time, particularly considering the experiences we have all been through these past twelve months. Health and wellbeing has never been so important and we are proud to be leading the way like this.’

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