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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rain and riots

I am back from rest and recreation in sunny Italy to another form of R&R, though thank goodness, the riots in England seem to have dissipated.

This is not going to be a blog post looking at the causes of those disturbances. I have read much since getting back home, but I do not live in the affected cities and can not hope to understand the motivations of those who took part.

That has not stopped some politicians from using them to make political points, no matter how cheap. People like Peter Hain have their crystal ball out again. He is predicting years of unrest, unchecked by a rapidly diminished police force. That is not to say I disagree with Peter Hain on the potential weakening of the police by cuts. I just want to see the evidence and hear for myself before jumping to conclusions.

Peter Hain has put the disturbances down to 'economic frustration'. He may be right but that frustration has been long in coming and it does not excuse criminal behaviour. Perhaps, the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales should be clearer in making that distinction too.

In an attempt to understand this agenda better I suggested a short inquiry into police cuts by the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee of the Assembly next term. I requested that we get the Chief Constables themselves to give evidence.

We will then have an informed view of how the Police are dealing with the cuts and to what extent they are being absorbed by the sort of reorganisation suggested by the Wales Audit Office last year, when they identified savings of £14 million though civilianising police tasks, and between £24 million and £35 million in other efficiencies that could be made without hitting front-line policing.

What I want to know is how will these cuts affect front line policing? Despite asertions by many politicians I do not think that this is in anyway clear as yet. What has also not been acknowledged is the history of cuts in the police budget. It is not the case that the police were suddenly forced to make savings at the moment that there was a change of government.

If we look at the figures, between 2007 and 2010, for example, we will see that there was a cut of nearly 200 in front-line police officers in Wales. That was before the coalition Government came into being. If we look at the 2010/2011 funding settlement, under the previous Labour Government, we will see that it cut £125 million from the money available to police forces.

The cumulative impact of the decisions by the Home Office and by central Government which, under Labour, also cut the police grant, means that we are now in a situation where the amount of money that the Welsh Government puts into the police forces is proportionally higher than the amount of money that they get from the Home Office.

Add to that the fact that the Welsh Government has applied stricter capping criteria than in England and have prevented Police Suthorities raising as much as they want from Council Tax then it is little wonder that budgets are stretched.

The proposed cuts in Welsh police forces are worrying, but let us not kid ourselves that this automatically means a bleak future of lawlessness on our streets. There is a long way to go yet before we can reasonably come to that sort of conclusion and hopefully we will not get there at all.
How refreshing why has it become so threatening to UK politicans to stop and ask what people on the ground actually think, listen and reflect on the frustration and despair that people are feeling and their life experience . Immediate road shows are all very well, but why didn't the Home. Secretary meet ACPO police officers and why are we looking to stateside gang culture police guru first before stopping to inquire where, what and how from our own communities.I feel so lucky to live in Wales!
... and welcome back Peter! cw
From my own obesrvation and experience the South Wales Police are far happier at handing out traffic tickets and filling out paperwork. Not actual prevention and the detection of crime. I will give you a few examples.
1. My sister in Cardiff witnessed someone breaking into her car and called the police, they turned up 3 days later (and this was in the good old days of prosperity).
2.My mother's house was broken was into while she was at home and the police did not turn up till the next day.
3. Often former work colleagues would tell me that there would be disturbances in the street and the police would simply not turn up (until they were told that they would take the law into their own hands.

I could go on, but I think you get the message.

Now on this side of the pond, my daughter accidentally called 911 and the cops were at my door 6 minutes later. And if their was disturbances a SWAT team turned up pretty quick.

Bill Bratton has been fostering cooperation between the US and UK for years, and is a top cop!

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