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Salmon’s attack focuses attention on police cuts

Salmon: PCCs go with the grain of recent reform
Salmon: PCCs go with the grain of recent reform

DYFED-POWYS POLICE Commissioner Christopher Salmon’s intervention in the General Election campaign has highlighted ongoing issues about police service cutbacks in Carmarthenshire.
Mr Salmon, a former Conservative candidate for the Llanelli UK Parliamentary constituency, attacked Labour’s plans to sweep away elected Police and Crime Commissioners, stating: “Commissioners have financial freedoms which mean they can cross traditional boundaries between organisations. They can make local decisions to cope with falling budgets.”
He went on to claim: “In Dyfed Powys, for example, I have used those freedoms to increase the number of officers, invest more in support for victims of domestic and sexual violence and improve justice for victims with fewer cautions. And I have reduced the overall cost to taxpayers.”
Confirming that Coalition Government cutbacks to policing had an effect on the way policing was delivered, he said: “If the government had cut police budgets without also reforming the police we would have had just less policing. As it is, we can use reform to deliver more – or better – with smaller budgets.”
However, the Commissioner’s own role in cuts to policing has been the subject of close and hostile questioning from those outside the Conservative Party.
Despite assurances Mr Salmon said he had received that the Police helicopter service had a secure future, NPAS has announced plans to scrap the service from January 1 2016 and replace it with a fixed wing aircraft based at St Athan.
Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru’s candidate in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, speaking before Parliament was prorogued for the election, said: “It’s quite suspect that the Minister was quick to congratulate [Mr Salmon] on saving money, but made absolutely no mention to the reality that we will lose our police helicopter.”
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Edwards pointed out: “The Police Commissioner announced just four months ago that he had secured the future of the helicopter and the Pembrey base, but NPAS has now reneged on that deal.
“That Ministers are now spinning this as a good news story leaves me highly suspicious and raises serious questions about what has been agreed in the last few months.”
While slamming what he says are Labour’s plans to centralise police services, Mr Salmon has not been shy of cutting the number of Police stations across the Dyfed-Powys police area.
In July 2014, saying he wanted to concentrate on ‘Bobbies not bricks’, the Commissioner announced plans to close a dozen police stations.
At the time, Mr Salmon announced that Carmarthen, Llandeilo, Newcastle Emlyn, Cross Hands, Burry Port and St Clears were to close in Carmarthenshire, while in Pembrokeshire, Fishguard, Milford Haven, Saundersfoot and St Davids were listed for closure. Knighton, Llanfyllin, Llanidloes and Machynlleth were to close in Powys, while Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye stations were placed under review with potential to retain or relocate.
Concerned residents in Burry Port are to hold a meeting at the Memorial Hall in the town to air concerns over the loss of local police stations and CCTV coverage.
In January, Mr Salmon claimed that CCTV was of little use in crime prevention and announced that footage would still be recorded with officers able to review incidents after being made of camera.
The decision to cease live monitoring of CCTV footage by Police personnel has caused significant concern, particularly in Ammanford, where the local council has voted to spend £13,000 funding the installation of a CCTV system in the town’s park.
Meanwhile, the Police say they are determined to make the best fist they can of government cutbacks and the withdrawal of community policing by using social media and mobile police stations. Speaking to a recent meeting in Llanelli, Superintendent Chris Curtis said: “Communities want visibility, but with only a finite level of resources we need to find more innovative ways of engaging with them
He continued: “It’s important to make the right decisions based on what officers tell us rather than on our perception of what’s going on. Our role remains to be visible and accessible to communities in a meaningful way. Soon we are taking stock of a new fleet of mobile police stations to reach far wider into different communities and there are some exciting times ahead.”