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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Resistance grows on Police mergers

Predictions that the enforced merger of the four Welsh Police forces will cost taxpayers dear seem to be coming to pass with today's news that the four Chief Constables are in disagreement with the Home Office over what savings can be made by the reorganisation.

Ministers have slashed police estimates of the annual cost of improving the service by £33m, which the officers call "a surprise and disappointment".

There needs to ber "substantially more money placed on the table" for Wales to meet the aim of delivering a more effective service.

Senior police officers estimate that the current arrangements will lead to an annual "black hole" of funding worth £62m a year by 2011.

How the money is raised is also a concern, according to the Politics Show.

Senior police believe that a new funding formula will favour built-up metropolitan areas, whereas the single Welsh force will be one of the most sparsely populated in Britain.

The chief constables fear the new budget for the combined operation will be much less than the total of the four existing forces of South and North Wales, Gwent Police and Dyfed-Powys.

Those Labour MPs such as Huw Irranca Davies who have said in public that the Liberal Democrats are running a "scandalous scare mongering campaign on local policing" should take note. There is genuine concern amongst senior Officers and Police Authority Chairs that this merger is unaffordable and that its financial cost will be made worse by a new funding formula that will discriminate against Wales. What the impact of this merger on Council Tax will be is unpredictable, but I am willing to bet that in South Wales at least we will be paying much more for the same or worst level of policing.
Comments:
You've said it yourself in black and white in that text that the effect the merger will have on council tax is unpredictable. Huw Irranca-Davies MP was right to draw attention to your scaremongering tactics, helping people to readily believe that they will face tax increases.

I remember speaking with you at your Maesteg 'street stall' and you said in your own words that you don't know what effect it will have on council tax, so you're only guessing and predicting.

I've written to the HO myself, and have been told that in Wales, precepts will need to be equalised, which will mean "either a reduction or a small increase in precept levels".

The whole idea of the restructuring process is to increase the ability of forces to tackle crime at the highest level, as well as maining and improving services at the most local level - the HO is also committed to introducing neighbourhood policing teams by 2008.
 
As South Wales has one of the lowest precepts then the impact of the any equalisation will be to increase our Council Tax. However, nobody believes the Home Office figures, including the Chief Constables. I am not scaremongering, I am just repeating what the experts are saying. Perhaps Huw Irranca Davies should talk to them.
 
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