Police tax rises for North Wales, Dyfed-Powys and Gwent forces

Despite the increases the chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has warned significant cost cutting will still happen

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Wales' four police forces have voted for council tax payers to pay more towards the cost of policing.

Dyfed-Powys, Gwent and North Wales police authorities each agreed increases on Friday, while South Wales had previously announced a 5% rise.

People in the Dyfed-Powys force area will also see a 5% increase in bills but in north Wales the rise is 2.5% and in Gwent force area it will be 2.66%.

Police authorities say they face a "tough situation".

North Wales Police Authority voted on Friday to increase its precept by 2.5% from April after a proposal to freeze it was out-voted.

Start Quote

Crime is up 3.4%, burglary is up. Recently, three pubs were raided by individuals in balaclavas. This is something new for North Wales Police”

End Quote Mark Polin North Wales Police chief constable

The increase was also smaller than the 4% recommended by the authority's financial officers, and followed an often animated discussion in the meeting at St Asaph.

Independent authority member Chris Drew had proposed a freeze, because North Wales Police currently had over £26m in reserves.

But the authority's treasurer, Nigel Thomas, said most of the money in reserves was needed, including £10m to cover the cost of a new police station in Wrexham.

Chief constable Mark Polin warned that further cuts would be necessary if the authority did not increase the precept.

He said that not increasing it would mean extra savings having to be found in future years.

"Crime is up 3.4%, burglary is up. Recently, three pubs were raided by individuals in balaclavas. This is something new for North Wales Police," he said.

"That may or may not be down to cuts in the number of officers we've already made, or it could be down to the state of the economy.

Fair balance

"Either way, I haven't got the money for things to stay rosy."

The proposal for no increase in the precept was lost by four votes to nine. Members of the authority voted in favour of an alternative proposal of a 2.5% increase.

The chief constable said after the decision that the force's savings plan would need to be revised.

Gwent Police Authority was the first to approve its figures on Friday, agreeing a 2.66% increase on the amount council tax payers must contribute in 2012-13. That means an extra £5 on Band D property bills.

Chair Cilla Davies said: "One of the key reasons for the increase is that the funding Gwent Police receives from government is being reduced by around 20% over the next four years.

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If you create an all-Wales force, it would be similar in size to the force of a major English conurbation”

End Quote Clive Wolfendale Formerly of North Wales Police

"In reality the budget available to the authority in 2014/15 will be very similar as that received in 2009/10.

"The police authority has listened and taken into account what residents are telling us, and whilst we are fully aware of the current financial challenges facing many households, we believe that today's announcement strikes a fair balance."

Dyfed-Powys Police Authority agreed a council tax precept of £198.54 for a Band D property, representing an increase of 5% or £9.45 per year on the level in 2011/12.

Chief constable Ian Arundale said: "The force still has to make significant cost reductions and while today's news is welcome it will not necessarily improve our situation it will just stop things from getting any worse.

"The 5% precept rise will not help the force to grow but what it will do is help to stabilise our cost reductions at 20%.

'Painful wedding'

"I understand the financial crisis is difficult for everyone and I want to assure people in the communities we serve in mid and west Wales that our priority remains protecting the frontline as far as possible."

Before the meeting, Mr Arundale said one area that could be affected by funding cuts would be cold case reviews citing the "huge iconic case" of John Cooper, who was jailed in 2011 for four Pembrokeshire murders and other offences which he carried out in the 1980s.

South Wales Police Authority has already agreed that council tax payers will contribute an extra 5% towards the cost of policing.

It will mean a Band D home will pay an extra £8.07 per year, taking the amount being paid to £169.42.

But one former top police officer, Clive Wolfendale, said savings could be made by creating a single all-Wales force.

"It would be a painful wedding but it could happen if we're looking to make further inroads on costs," said Mr Wolfendale, a former acting chief constable of North Wales Police who is now chief executive of drug and alcohol agency Cais.

'Rationalisation'

"There are arguments about autonomy, particularly on the back of the four police commissioners being introduced for Wales, but it's an interesting time to be having this discussion.

"If you create an all-Wales force, it would be similar in size to the force of a major English conurbation."

He said an all-Wales force would lead to savings through the streamlining of certain back office functions such as in personnel and finance departments.

He added that there would be savings in technology, and some police estates could be "rationalised".

Mr Wolfendale said he also would like to see powers over policing in Wales devolved to the Welsh assembly.

From next year, council tax precepts and police spending will become the responsibility of police commissioners, to be elected in November 2012.

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