Plaid Cymru peer, Dafydd Wigley on Thursday 6th July introduced a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords to ensure the police forces are adequately resourced.
Government funding for the Police in Wales and England has been cut by 25% over the past five years.
The former Plaid Cymru leader’s Bill will ensure the Police have the resources they need to carry out their core duties including combatting extremism and ensuring that communities are kept safe.
The UK Government sets the police budget on an annual basis. Lord Wigley’s Bill seeks to reform the way the Police are funded by placing a new duty on Police and Crime Commissioners to submit a funding estimate to the Secretary of State outlining the financial needs of their police force. If there is a discrepancy between the Commissioner’s estimate and the Secretary of State’s budget, it must be referred to an independent body for adjudication. Any continuing divergence between the two figures would need to be justified to Parliament by the Secretary of State.
The Bill follows reports made to Plaid Cymru by retired senior police officers that cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT) have limited the capacity of the Police to gather intelligence on extremism and gang crime.
According to research compiled by crime expert, Harry Fletcher, each SNT would have had six officers including a Sergeant and two Police Constables and covered, on average, one council ward each. Today the average is 3 staff and the area covered is 75 per cent larger.
SNTs collect intelligence on extremist, gang and criminal activity and behaviour. Information gathered on extremism is passed to the Borough Counter Terrorism Liaison Officer who in turn work with UK Counter Terrorism to assess risk and danger.
Lord Wigley’s Bill also places a duty on Police and Crime Commissioners to carry out a full risk assessment in respect of any person subject to investigation for potential extremist behaviour that could encourage, incite or instigate acts of violence. The Secretary of State must, in turn, provide sufficient resources to allow such assessments to take place.
Plaid Cymru advocates devolving policing to Wales, mirroring the situation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which would trigger a funding boost of around £25 million per year for the Welsh police forces.
Lord Dafydd Wigley said:
“Police forces in Wales and in England have been subjected to sustained cuts to their budgets which have undoubtedly detracted from their capacity to support the work of the security services.
“Government funding for the Police has been cut by 25% over the past five years and vital aspects of policing and public safety are now under-resourced as a result.
“Units such as Safer Neighbourhood Teams, which carry out crucial work in support of counter terrorism efforts, have been cut to the bone. Ten years ago, Safer Neighbourhood Teams, which collect intelligence on extremist, gang and criminal activity, would have had six officers including a Sergeant and two Police Constables and they covered, on average, one council ward each. Now each team has an average of just three members of staff and cover areas that are 75 per cent bigger than before.
“Public safety surely has to be a government’s top priority and yet the UK Government seems willing to put public safety at risk.
“My Bill seeks to ensure that the Police have the resources they need to carry out their duty to keep the public safe. It would ensure that police budgets reflect their needs, allowing vital units such as Safer Neighbourhood Teams to take a greater role in supporting the work of security and intelligence services.
“I hope that my Bill will attract cross-party support today.”
Crime expert and director of Digital Trust, Harry Fletcher, who worked Lord Wigley on the Bill said:
“The fall in the number of police officers has had an impact on the Police’s capacity to gather intelligence. This Bill would ensure that police budgets were the subject of independent scrutiny and bring about greater accountability to the Home Office. Public protection must come first.”
Notes to editors:
The Bill seeks to place a duty on Police and Crime Commissioners to submit a funding proposal, which the Secretary of State must either agree to, or refer to an independent body. It would require the Secretary of State to justify any divergence between the proposal and the final settlement to the House of Commons.
It will also place a duty on the Treasury to provide additional resources to a police force in the event of a major incident; and place a duty on all organisations, departments or authorities involved in any crime incidents where there are multiple victims to retain and make available to the Police all relevant evidence and documentation.
Government funding for the Welsh and English police forces has been cut by 25% over the last five years: https://fullfact.org/crime/police-funding-england-and-wales/
According to crime expert, Harry Fletcher, the cost of surveillance for one week on one person is at least £26,000 which equates to over £1.4 million for a full year.
WalesOnline coverage of figures supporting claim that if policing was devolved, Welsh police forces would be £25 million per hear better off: