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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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Rescuers attend to injured construction workers in New Dock Street

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A MULTI AGENCY rescue operation is underway in Llanelli involving all three emergency services after an incident at a construction site.

Workers have been at the New Dock Street site, working for around three years, The Herald understands.

The Herald has been told that a piece of plant malfunctioned causing the emergency, which happened earlier this evening (Mar 19).

Four fire engines and three ambulances are at the scene, our reporter said.

A specialist line rescue team is involved in the recovery operation.

An eye-witness told the press that three workers have been affected.

The source said: “Concrete had just been mixed and had been poured into a skip which was then lifted using a machine. The concrete was being lowered into the hole, it’s probably about 20ft and then the machine toppled over.”

He added: “Two men climbed out of the hole on their own and as a precaution the third man was told to stay down there. The workers were told to leave the site as a precaution.”

At least one person has been seen being taken away in an ambulance.

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Llanelli: Met Bar incident investigated

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AN INCIDENT which resulted in a 51-year old man having to go hospital is being investigated by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The man has been discharged from Glangwili Hospital but police are looking in to how the incident happened and how the man fell down some steps.

The incident happened outside the Met Bar in Llanelli on Saturday night (Mar 16).

A spokeswoman for Dyfed-Powys Police told the Herald: “At approximately 10.55pm on Saturday March 16, officers responded to reports of an injured man outside The Met Bar, Station Road, Llanelli, after he’d fallen down some steps at the location.

“Ambulance was at scene, and the 51 year old man was conveyed to Glangwili Hospital with what was thought to have been a serious head injury. He was then later discharged from hospital, and the head injury was no longer believed to be serious.”
Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact police by calling 101 and quoting DPP/3011/16/03/2019/02/C. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908

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Reports damning for City Deal management

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THE PUBLICATION of two reports on Friday, March 15, has shone a light into corners of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

The first report released, prepared on behalf of the UK and Welsh governments, written by Actica Consulting, suggests a combination of concerns over funding and of the “much-publicised concerns on the wellness village (Delta Lakes, Llanelli, the single largest project) could cause a loss of confidence within the region”

In the meantime and, The Herald understands, over the anguished objections of the Regional

Office/Carmarthenshire County Council, the second report – an internal review – was circulated to county councillors in Pembrokeshire this morning.

The second report makes for grim reading.

The report lays bare the amount of distrust between the City Deal partners, particularly between Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire councils on the one side, and Carmarthenshire County Council on the other.

Each report highlights deficiencies in the management of the Deal, which Carmarthenshire County Council and its controversial CEO Mark James are meant to lead.

Familiar to those who have kept a close watch on the activities of Carmarthenshire County Council are complaints of a lack of transparency and openness in the way the City Deal has been managed to date.

Particular criticism is made of two key aspects of the project: that under Mr James’ leadership the Deal has failed to consider the City Deal as a truly regional opportunity and focussed on building individual, local projects of limited regional value; the second major criticism is the failure of leadership given to the project and an abject lack of clear financial processes and accountability.

In spite of an attempt to spin the ‘success’ of two elements of the deal, Swansea Waterfront and Yr Egin, it is worth noting that Yr Egin was only tacked on to the City Deal when already underway because UWTSD revealed it couldn’t afford to complete the project on its own as it had promised.

Cllr Rob James, the Leader of the Labour Group on Carmarthenshire County Council told The Herald late on Friday afternoon: “I am pleased that this review has highlighted many of the concerns that we have raised on governance.

“Frankly, the report validated our actions to date.

“Trust has broken down between partners and public confidence in one of the projects, in particular, has taken a big hit.

“There are clear lessons that need to be learnt and this report highlights several of them. I now hope that the administration in Carmarthenshire consider the review in full and ensure that radical changes on governance are delivered immediately.”

Cllr Rob Stewart, Chairman of the Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Committee, said: “This review was carried out alongside the UK and Welsh Government’s independent review of the City Deal programme and sought to assure that it will deliver full economic benefits for the region.

“The findings and recommendations of the internal review will be formally considered by the SBCD Joint Committee at the next meeting.

“Looking to ensure governance is as robust as possible reflects that we’re still in the very early stages of a 15-year programme, but we’re ready to support any recommendations that would benefit the region’s economic prosperity in future by speeding up the City Deal’s delivery.”

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