Welsh Conservative Conference Speech

Every now and then something jumps out at you in this job.

It might be the distraught father of a severely autistic man, caught up in the nightmare of the criminal justice system.

It might be the heart-breaking story of a couple, investing their savings in their dream retirement home, only to land next to the neighbours from hell as disputes escalate and the value of their property falls to nothing.

It might be the horror or a woman clinging to her family in the face of violence and abuse – in the very place she should be safest.

It might be stories of trafficking, fraud or businesses crippled by online criminals.

These are all things that affect people across Dyfed Powys. The police deal with them every day.

I hear about them in my surgeries in towns and villages from Llanfyllin to Llansteffan.

Rural areas present their own problems. As Sherlock Holmes puts it:

“the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling… countryside”!

… He must have been having a bad day… I don’t think it’s quite that bad…

In case I depress you, you also hear about the officers who check on families every day; the disputes over a tree root settled; or, the work of our new joint police and mental health team who prevent sick people ending up in jail.

That is the work of the police today. It is what I fund, support and oversee as Police and Crime Commissioner.

It is what courts and justice should do. But too often bureaucracy, confusion and paperwork prevent them.

Like the police before the reforms of this – one of our greatest Home Secretaries – central interference strangles local justice.

Reforms

That is why I hope a future, Conservative, government devolves justice budgets to PCCs.

If you want to know where decisions are made, follow the money. Only when we have joined up budgets will we have joined up decisions.

That will allow PCCs to ensure that victims get swift, sure justice.

Then we can bring proper authority, respect and standing to our local courts. We can drag them out from dreadful grey concrete offices, that look like some 1960s municipal car park, into the public’s eye.

Because the first duty of government is to provide security and justice for its citizens. And the best form of security and justice is security and justice that is owned by those citizens.

That is the great tradition of British liberty, stretching back through the creation of our police in the nineteenth century; the establishment of our Parliamentary traditions in 17th; and the roots of our legal system in Magna Carter and the great codification, here in Wales, by Hywel Dda.

We do not have laws imposed upon us. We own our laws. We make them. We police them. We judge them. We uphold them.

In creating PCCs, this government has broken the fiefdoms of cosy committees and worthy ‘experts’ who had smothered the administration of the police. It has given the public a voice.

You have someone you elect, who you can sack, to implement your priorities.

These reforms have put the law-abiding in charge of law-enforcement.

Leadership

Local leadership means we can tackle local problems.

In Dyfed Powys it means we focus on preventing crime.

Since my election we:

  • Have 30 more officers for our rural policing;
  • The highest proportion of frontline officers in Wales;
  • We are on course for 100,000 hours of extra police time thanks to investment in IT

That means more officers, for more time, tackling crime in our towns and villages.

It means we can start to improve local justice. We need swift, sure justice so offenders learn to behave and victims can find their peace.

We have introduced:

  • 2 new rape crisis centres, due in Aberystwyth and Newtown
  • Extra support for victims of domestic abuse
  • 2 new mental health support teams

We have overhauled our complaints system.

We have introduced some of the most comprehensive reforms in England and Wales, which the government themselves are adapting.

That is what you get with leadership – new ideas and innovation.

Finally – and it is finally because we can only do this by improving services first – we are returning savings to taxpayers in some of the poorest communities of Wales.

Families in Dyfed Powys will pay 5% less for policing next year.

How many Labour run authorities in Wales can claim that?

They claim to speak for the workers but try to prize their grubby little hands off workers’ cash and you’ll discover something far stronger than superglue.

We can lighten the load on families because we are on course to save £8.8m between 2013 and 2016.

The top ten salaries are down 20%.

We have the lowest cost per head in Wales.

That is what you can achieve when you put the public in charge.

Choice

Or, perhaps I should say, that is what you can achieve when the public have the profound good sense to elect Conservatives!

You get leadership and decisiveness; action not words.

Labour’s proposals for policing are all talking-shops and committees, joint boards and national plans, local consultation and government meddling.

No one is actually in charge. No one is accountable.

That’s the way they like it. It’s a miasma of competing interests; a fog indecision.

What else could we expect from their government?

Nothing. Hot air, motherhood-and-apple-pie

… (except Ed M’s forgotten the pie and Ed B can’t remember who his mother is)…

… confusion and chaos:

A kitchen cabinet producing a dog’s dinner government.

That is Britain’s alternative in May.

Will we have a Conservative government or the hapless court of Ed the Unready?

We have given people…

…people who are struggling with mental health issues in the justice system…

…people who are victims of crime…

…people who work hard for their money and wonder why they should keep paying more…

…a voice over their justice, that they pay for.

Huge swathes of government are benefitting from overdue reform.

None of that is easy. It has not been in Dyfed Powys.

Heaven knows it cannot have been easy for David Cameron with a great LibDem albatross slung around his neck.

But we have done it because we love our country and we want better lives for its people.

Now they have their choice. What is it to be?

Competence or chaos?

Plan or no idea?

On your side or on your back?

From mid-Wales we can give our own: it’s not been easy; we are delivering change; the plan is working; there are brighter days ahead.

Wales, we are on your side.

Delivered to the Welsh Conservative Conference on 28.2.2015

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