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Commissioner says public misled on funding

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THE WESTMINSTER Government has been accused of cutting Policing budgets by stealth leading to greater demands on Council Tax Payers to pick up the shortfall.

Last week, the Home Office announced an extra £300m in the Police budget to help pay for pension expenses and other costs.

Since 2010, central government funding to police forces has been cut by almost a third, in real terms, leading the number of officers to fall by 21,000.

The funding breaks down as:
• An extra £161m next year for England and Wales’ 43 police forces, which the Home Office says will protect police budgets in “real terms”. This brings the total to £7.8bn next year
• A £153m grant to help plug a shortfall in funding because of changes to pensions contributions
• Police and Crime Commissioners will also be able to increase the policing element of council tax.

This means households could pay an extra £24 a year for a Band D property, although local residents must be consulted first.

In one of his final acts as Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, Alun Davies AM responded to the announcement with a scathing attack on continuing cuts to Police budgets.

Mr Davies said: Responsibility for policing is not currently devolved. Welsh Government continues to believe in, and to make the case for, devolution of this important public service. The UK Government’s policy of austerity has imposed significant cash and real-term cuts to police funding over the last 9 years.

“The overall funding provided for this Settlement does nothing to reverse years of under-provision to enable police forces to maintain current levels of service and will require the Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales to make difficult choices in setting the level of their council tax precept. This will have a disproportionate impact on those council tax payers who will find it increasingly difficult to pay their bills.

“While decisions on the distribution of funding between police force areas are for the Home Office, I believe that police forces in Wales will be disappointed that the proposed Settlement neither supports policing in rural areas nor takes account of the additional responsibilities which policing the capital city for Wales entails.”

Local elected members Jonathan Edwards MP and Adam Price AM have blasted the Home Office after ministers claimed they were providing extra money for policing when, in reality, Tory ministers in London are expecting local taxpayers to pay more in their council tax precept.

Noting a claimed cash increase for Dyfed Powys Police of £8.1million “cash increase”, the Plaid pair point out that increase is dependent upon the Police and Crime Commissioner raising a Band D council tax precept by £24 per year.

Dyfed Powys already receives amongst the lowest funding from the Home Office of all 43 police forces in England and Wales with the council tax police precept already accounting for more than 50% of the force’s total funding.
Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament, Jonathan Edwards, echoed the comments of the Police Commissioner, saying that Tory ministers were being “deliberately deceptive”.

Assembly Member and Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price repeated calls for the devolution of policing, saying that Welsh police forces were missing out on £25million for every year that policing remained in the hands of politicians in London.

Jonathan Edwards MP said: “It’s quite galling to see the Westminster government claim it is providing extra cash to police forces when the sum it publishes is dependent upon local taxpayers plugging the gap through their police precept.

“Tory Ministers are being deliberately deceptive in telling us they’re providing extra money when in reality they are continuing to cut vital public services to the bone.

“Residents of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys already contribute more than half of the force’s funding but are being asked to put their hands in their pockets once again as London fails to deliver.

“The best way to protect our policing system is to remove it from the simplistic one-size-fits-all approach at Westminster and operate a system that is developed in Wales and works for Wales.”

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price added: “For every year that policing remains in the hands of London politicians, figures show that Welsh police forces are losing out to the tune of £25million – around £13.5million in the case of Dyfed Powys.

“With Westminster now misleading the public on the amount of money it is providing, and with the public once again expected to pay more and more for less and less, the case for the devolution of policing to the National Assembly grows by the day and has never been stronger.”

Launching a public consultation on the proposed Police budget, Dafydd Llywelyn, the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Dyfed-Powys force said: “After a frustrating delay, the Government’s provisional grant funding settlement has been announced, which sets out the position for Dyfed-Powys Police for the 2019/20 financial year.

“The way in which the Home Office and Central Government are misleading the public is disgraceful and I am very disappointed in the way this settlement once again shifts the burden onto local taxpayers. I continue to try and do the right thing to protect our communities but I feel we are being let down by the Government in London as their actions are likely to impact on our local services.

“I am currently consulting with the residents of Dyfed-Powys; asking if they would be willing to pay additional police precept to continue to safeguard our communities. Within the survey, I have outlined the impact of for Dyfed-Powys Police and its communities. My decision will be made by listening to local communities and the professional advice of the Chief Constable.

“I am working closely with the Chief Constable to critically review all aspects of the budget requirement. Given the scale of financial challenges that are faced, a precept increase will be unavoidable, but how much this is increased by should not be dictated by Government.”

The survey can be completed here: http://bit.ly/policepreceptconsultation

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Llanelli High Street shortlisted for prize

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LLANELLI HIGH STREET has been shortlisted in the Government’s Great British High Street Awards, in proud partnership with Visa, putting them in the running for up to £15,000.

After a rigorous selection process led by a panel of independent judges, the high street has been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, which celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify.

The bid by Ymlaen Llanelli follows research commissioned by Visa in April 2019 demonstrating the positive impact that the local high street has on communities. The research found that nearly three quarters of consumers (71%) in Wales say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with nearly half (45%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason. Spending time with friends and family (25%) and offering a sense of community (18%) were other reasons cited for why high streets make people feel happier. The research also reveals that half of consumers (50%) feel that their high street gives them a sense of pride in their local community.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Llanelli for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards.

“Llanelli high street is a hive of activity, with food festivals, childrens’ days and community get-togethers all part of the local calendar. A great example of how high streets can bring a renewed energy to communities.

“People are happier when they can see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”

Sundeep Kaur, Head of UK & Ireland Merchant Services at Visa, added: “We’ve seen some fantastic entries for this year’s Great British High Street Awards across both the Champion High Street and Rising Star categories. In particular, the desire to innovate stands out amongst this year’s entries, with high streets adapting to the challenges presented by a rapidly changing retail environment to find ways to thrive at a local level.

“As our research shows, high streets play a vital role at the heart of communities, so this is a great opportunity for those communities with shortlisted high streets to show their support by placing their votes on the Great British High Street website.”

Llanelli High Street is one of the 28 high streets that have been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, identifying high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify. 12 high streets have been shortlisted in the Champion High Street category, which recognises the UK’s best high streets. All 40 high streets are now in the running to win a prize of up to £15,000 to be dedicated to a local high street initiative.

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Head Teacher at Primary school in Llanelli suspended

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THE HEAD TEACHER of a Welsh primary school has been suspended, it has been confirmed.

Catherine Lloyd-Jenkins, who is head at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes in Llanelli, has been suspended from her duties at the school with immediate effect.

Governors at the school have been unavailable for comment, but Carmarthenshire Council confirmed the news this morning.

It is understood that the chair of the governing body is currently out of the country, and the council would not comment further on the circumstances surrounding the suspension.

The council’s director of education, Gareth Morgans, said: “School staffing is a matter for the Governing Body, however, we can confirm the headteacher of Ysgol Ffwrnes has been suspended.

“It is not appropriate to comment further.”

Mrs Lloyd-Jenkins has worked at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes for 23 years, taking up a post at the school in 1996.

She has been the headteacher there for almost 20 years, taking over the role in 2000. She has also worked as a peer inspector at Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales confirmed.

According to one local councillor, ‘serious concerns’ have been raised about the school in recent months.

“Local residents and parents have approached us raising serious concerns about the school in question,” said Carmarthenshire councillor Rob James.

“We are in dialogue with senior council officers to assert whether the allegations are credible and what action the council and governors have taken in response to these allegations.”

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Dyfed-Powys Police numbers at record low, say Labour

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POLICE officers based across the Dyfed-Powys area are now at their lowest levels in the last decade, with over 300 officers being lost across the region, claim Carmarthenshire Labour.

According to a freedom of information request by Carmarthenshire Labour, police officers based across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are down 42% and are at record lows in both Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The figures published by Dyfed-Powys Police show that Carmarthenshire has lost 160 officers in the last ten years, Pembrokeshire is down 107 officers and Ceredigion has lost 56 bobbies on the beat.

These figures come off the back of a poor report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that shows the force has gone backwards in the last year, with crime also on the increase.

HMIC’s recent PEEL (Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) report noted concerns about Dyfed-Powys Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime and specifically warned of failures to assess all incidents of domestic abuse.

Carmarthenshire Labour Leader Cllr Rob James claims that the figures show that the current Police and Crime Commissioner is now performing worse than their predecessor.

Rob James stated: “These figures that show a dramatic decrease in police numbers are extremely worrying and reinforce what communities are saying across Dyfed Powys – there are simply not enough police officers in our areas.

“The fact that we now have lower police numbers in the three counties compared to the end of the last Police and Crime Commissioner’s term with crime now on the rise illustrates that the Plaid Cymru Commissioner is failing in his duty to protect our communities.

“We need urgent action to make our communities safe once more, as there is a clear link between the loss of youth provision and cuts to officer numbers, and the rise of crime in our communities.

“There is little evidence that our Commissioner has grasped the nettle over the last three years in tackling this important issue.”

These claims however, have been slapped down by Police and Crime Comissioner, Dafydd Llewellyn. He said that said that Cllr James had misunderstood or misrepresented the information provided to him.
The Carmarthen data have a significant rider attached to them.

The explanatory note reads: ‘It should be noted that the figures for Carmarthenshire police division between 2008 and 2018 are not comparable as the structure of Carmarthenshire division in 2018 has altered to that of 2008 which has impacted upon the figures provided’.

That explanation is expanded upon concerning the Ceredigion data. Regarding them, an explanatory note warns that: ‘[T]he structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded divisionally now come under the HQ remit, e.g. the Road Policing Unit, CID, etc.’.

Dafydd Llewelyn pointed out that note in his response to The Herald: “As outlined in the response to the Freedom of Information request, structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded as divisionally based are now recorded under the HQ remit, for example, Roads Policing Unit, CID.”

Dafydd Llewelyn continued: “Since taking up my role as the elected person to represent the many communities across the four counties served by the force, I have increased the overall resource available by 4%. I have ploughed funding into dedicated teams to support front line officers and have invested in resources to support the most vulnerable in our communities.

“I have commissioned services specific to their needs – be that as victims of domestic abuse or young people choosing to leave their homes for reasons unknown to authorities. I will continue to do this. I will not be held to account by numbers on paper alone, but by the difference I can make to individuals’ quality of life.

“I will also use the opportunity I have to campaign for services appropriate to the very specific needs an area the size of Dyfed-Powys Police has and will work with the force to adapt according to those needs.”

He concluded by pointing out: “Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys remain the safest counties nationally and I’m proud to be driving a service that is willing and able to flex and respond, despite the financial challenges faced day-in-day-out.”

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