Responding to the Police Grant settlement announced today, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said:
I welcome that the settlement announced today has partially lifted a significant financial threat which could have a major and damaging impact on South Wales Police. The Treasury has realised its responsibility to fund a £4m police pensions “black hole” in the next financial year. However, we still have no long-term commitment from the Government to address the pensions issue, a cost of £4m in 2019/20 rising to £10m the following year and the year after. The cannot and should not be funded from existing police budgets.
We also have another unanswered question over the funding of police training and how the costs of the new training framework are going to be met.
This Government has again shifted the burden of police funding onto council tax payers through the police precept, whilst at the same time making Police and Crime Commissioners directly responsible for the inevitable increases required to provide effective policing. The added frustration here in South Wales is that, despite repeated calls for a review, the Home Office still doesn’t recognise the extra cost of policing the capital city, so South Wales Police is further short changed whereas additional money is provided to forces policing London and Edinburgh. We share the ambitions of Cardiff and indeed Swansea to host major events and all we seek is fairness in the way money for policing is provided by the Home Office.
Since 2011/12 South Wales Police has had its Police Grant cut by around £45m which is the highest cash reduction in Wales compared to the other centrally funded public services. During this time, the number of police officers has been cut from 3,400 to around 2,800.
We have made tough decisions year after year for a number of years in relation to how we deliver our services. If Home Office ministers want to see increased efficiency and constant improvement, South Wales is the place to come. Our effective forward planning, combined with the innovative way in which we work with partners to keep South Wales safe, is why we have been able to continue to meet our challenges against a backdrop of deep financial cuts.
We have taken a balanced approach to soften the impact on policing in our communities, while keeping the burden on the rate payer to a minimum. Even with this year’s 7% increase in the police precept, South Wales Police remained the best value for money police force in terms of the cost to council tax payers in Wales.
Despite the financial challenges the force has consistently improved its performance and service to our communities and is recognised as one of the best performing forces in England and Wales.
Given the pressures of high demand and reduced resources I find it extraordinary that the level of commitment by our officers and staff is so high and it is humbling to see their positive approach to supporting vulnerable people and responding to all the other challenges they face on a daily basis. We want the funding in place to be able to give them the tools to do the job.
Despite the cuts, we have maintained neighbourhood policing, enhanced our commitment to working with partners to prevent crime, continued to invest in technology and responded to the growing operational demands on the service.
Much of our success has been recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. The level of victim satisfaction is one of the best in the country and the engagement and visibility of our officers in communities has been ranked as the best in the UK.
We continue to have the support of Welsh Government in funding 200 Community Support Officers who play a vital role in our Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
The precept increase has allowed police officer numbers to be maintained at their current level including those allocated specifically to dealing with rising demand of online threats and protecting vulnerable people, as well as neighbourhood policing where much our work on preventing crime takes place.
Given the current threats, whether from county Lines or from aspects of extremism, and our commitment to maintaining and refreshing Neighbourhood Policing in South Wales the continued reduction in the Police Grant in real terms makes my work and that of the Chief Constable even more challenging.