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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Whitehall farce

News from this morning's Social Justice Committee is that all four Chief Constables are heartily fed-up with the Home Office and seem to think that the Government are living with the fairies when it comes to understanding the needs of Wales and its Police forces.

The BBC takes up the story:

All four Welsh chief constables have written to the Home Secretary formally withdrawing from discussions over the idea of an all-Wales Police force.

North Wales' Richard Brunstrom told a Welsh assembly committee that there was not enough money on the table.

Other groups have described the process as a "farce".


Addressing the assembly's social justice committee on Wednesday, Mr Brunstrom said he and colleagues would lodge a formal objection to the plan unless they were given assurances over long-term financing by 1 June.

The chief constables fear the new budget for the combined operation will be much less than the total of the four existing forces of South and North Wales, Gwent Police and Dyfed-Powys.

The most damning evidence however came from the Welsh Local Government Association:

Also giving evidence to the committee, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA)'s Steve Thomas described the consultation process as the "best farce since Charlie's Aunt".

Mr Thomas said goodwill towards the changes had evaporated as council leaders had faced an endless procession of confused Home Office civil servants whose knowledge of Wales was limited to the country having a rugby team and a few mountains.

Mr Thomas said the likelihood of the Home Office's timetable being met was as great as "a bacon sandwich flying past the assembly window".

None of this generates any confidence in the proposed merger nor in the ability of the Government to deliver it on time. The latest calculation by the Chief Constables show that by 2012, the annual deficit of a single police force would reach £79m. The prospect of higher Council Taxes for a much reduced service is now a real possibility.
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