Archives for February 2015

Flying Low

News that the National Police Air Service want to close Pembrey air base is hugely disappointing.

We signed an agreement to join only a few months ago. That was good for Powys and Ceredigion as well as Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. It secured access to air services for more hours of each day, from more bases, for slightly less money than it cost to run our own.

Running a helicopter is extremely expensive. I discovered this before Christmas in 2013 when the helicopter gearbox broke. It cost £250,000 to repair. Not a Christmas present I particularly wanted.

In the last few days, the helicopter used to look for Cameron Comey, the little boy who fell into the Towy, was initially provided from South Wales. Our helicopter was in Nottingham, again grounded for repairs.

The base we have in Pembrey is currently open from 9am to 9pm. When we join NPAS (currently expected to be 1 January 2016) all the bases will operate 24 hours a day.

So, there are good reasons for joining the national service. On top of that, we had no choice. The government could have forced us to join.

We need to work more closely with other forces if we are to deliver expensive things like air support in future. But that shouldn’t happen at the expense of service in rural areas.

My job last November was to get the best possible deal for Dyfed Powys. We hoped we had secured it. Unfortunately, we have more to do.

My job now is still to ensure that we get the best possible deal for rural areas like Dyfed Powys. With the Chief Constable, I will do exactly that.

I am determined that we will have a service that covers all of Dyfed Powys, when we need it at a price we can afford.

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What should we do with speeding fines?

What do you want me do with money from speeding fines?

Do you want money to be ring fenced for road safety policing, like cameras? Or should we use it for general policing?

Let me know in a quick one-question survey here.

No one is ever happy when it comes to speeding fines. I can hear you muttering that they are ‘just a money raising device’ right now. Some might be saying they are a fair cop – and a way of improving driving. It usually depends on whether you’ve been caught.

At the moment, the situation is this. If you are caught within certain limits you are offered a course, which means you don’t get points. There are several courses depending on what you’ve done.

Let’s take the standard speed awareness course. It costs £85.

The money is spent as follows. At the moment £5 goes to administration of the national database that records who has done the course where. In Wales, £35 goes via me to the GoSafe partnership between police, local and Welsh government. They run the cameras. In Dyfed Powys £22.31 goes on setting up the courses – administration, venues, tutors, etc..

That leaves £22.69 per course. That money comes to me as Police and Crime Commissioner. I can spend it on policing or other crime prevention work.

Since May we have had 7,432 people on courses. That gives us £169k in Dyfed Powys. With other courses, like seat belt courses, 20mph speed courses and so on, we could have up to £500,000 in 2014/15.

That is the bit I would like your help on. Should we increase or reduce the amount going back into cameras?

Traditionally police keep money from road fines for road policing. That has the advantage that it ensures the money is spent on worthwhile aims.

But it has a problem. It makes people suspicious. It can add to the impression that fines are money raising, rather than safety, devices. It can also mean that you end up spending too much on roads policing, when you should spend it on something else.

Should we spend it on cycle or motorbike safety courses, for example? Or should we spend it on local officers or cyber crime specialists?

It’s over to you. What would you like me to do with fine money?

If you’re harbouring a secret rage, this is your chance. If you know someone else who might be, pass this on, encourage them to sign up and have your say.

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Police Cars and Ambulances

Problems in the Welsh NHS are becoming inescapable. Missed targets – the worst for years – illustrate what anyone who works close to the NHS can tell you. The system is in serious trouble. Even BBC Wales picked up on this, with six days of coverage last week.

We cannot for one second blame staff. They are as much victims in this as patients. The problem – much as it was in policing – is weak leadership. And that starts at the top, with politicans.

Large organisations need simple messages. They need leaders empowered to lead. They also need honesty. Only then can staff flourish and patients benefit.

To criticise the NHS in Wales is not to criticise Wales, or NHS staff. It is to acknowledge that people’s health is more important than protecting reputations in Cardiff.

Wales has denied its problems for too long. It suffers from a dangerous consensus among officials and politicians in Cardiff Bay. No one dares tell truth to power. Wales, tragically, is performing worse than England, far worse. Excessive sensitivity about these comparisons allows ministers to avoid scrutiny of their performance.

I’m no fan of Cameron’s crude rhetoric about Offa’s Dyke being the line between life and death but that does not mean he is wrong. All last year Cardiff Bay politicians tried to silence anyone who criticised the performance of the NHS in Wales, including Labour MPs like Ann Clwyd.

Now NHS pressures are spilling over into policing. In December Dyfed Powys had twice as many trips to A&E as in November. Some of these trips start when officers are already at the scene. Sometimes police are asked to attend by 999 call staff. Why? Because ambulances aren’t available.

That means more officers waiting in A&E, officers conducting at-scene medical assessments beyond their expertise, or officers leaving their duties to drive patients to hospital… which in turn means those officers are not able to perform their day jobs.

It is simply not fair on officers. They will take the blame if something goes wrong. It’s not fair on patients. They are being denied the care they should get. And it is not fair on the public who pay for this mess.

I, and others, have raised the issue repeatedly over the last two years. All we get is talk and no action, consultation documents and muddle-headed legislation. Welsh ministers fiddle while Rome burns.

Meanwhile, those same ministers are seeking to expand their powers. They want to control policing, courts and probation services.

We have trodden on eggshells for too long. The question is increasingly how – and whether – the current model of government in Wales can be made to work as it is, not how much more to give it.

Why should we trust Cardiff ministers to control law and order with so many existing failures in health and education unaddressed? We shouldn’t.

The people of Wales deserve better.

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