“The police protect us. We will protect the police.” With those words, the Chancellor announced the government’s decision to protect police funding.
I was surprised as anyone at this change of policy. So, what does it mean for us, for Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion? And why the change?
Obviously, the announcement is welcome. Equally obviously, we should be wary of the small print. Funds available to police and crime commissioners are still likely to fall. But it’s better than it could have been.
It means we now have a little more headroom than we expected to make the changes we need. We will still have to spend wisely. We still have to reform. We still need to invest in better technology. We still need to keep a relentless, demanding focus on the frontline.
My view is that the decision to protect police funding reflects the government’s determination to protect the public. They saw the attacks in Paris. They see the threats at home. They recognise the shift in public attitude in recent weeks.
I think the government are right. The mood has shifted. People are deeply concerned about our safety, particularly and understandably about those threats that reach our shores from the turmoil abroad.
Those threats are a symptom of an ancient disease that has afflicted every society, race and creed since the dawn of time. It is totalitarianism: a world view devoid of love, that brokers no opposition, seeks to destroy difference and annihilates freedom. It is simply a poisonous ideological infection that spreads until confronted.
And we will have to confront it. Ultimately, we will have to confront it abroad. But we have to protect ourselves at home while we do so. That is where the police come in.
Protecting people – from petty crime to terrorism – starts with communities and local officers. That’s why I’ve been determined to protect them in Dyfed Powys, despite funding cuts. We have managed it, with 30 more on our streets since 2013 despite savings of £8.8m.
We have further to go to because we must recognise that Dyfed Powys contributions to national policing are likely to increase, not decrease. We continue to protect important ports and infrastructure in Pembrokeshire. We are likely to have more money kept from us for national police work.
We will still need to do more with less, because there is more to do and we will still have less.
Do not listen to counsels of despair, though. We can make a big difference – to crime and to terrorism. We can protect ourselves. Difficult times demand a plan and decisive local leadership. You will decide that leadership by public vote next May. You are in control.
Our strength starts in our communities and spreads from there. The stakes could not be higher.