North Wales Police has had central government funding cuts of £31million. This has meant that our local constabulary has had to secure more funding from Council Tax which is a one of the most regressive taxes in the UK.
I asked the Minister for Policing how much extra will local Council Tax have to increase to make up for his cuts to our policing and he stated “…it doesn’t matter if funds are local or national it’s all taxpayers money”. Well, in North Wales the only way to tackle the increase in Council Tax is if the UK Government redistributes wealth from other parts of the UK. It is completely unfair that those with the broadest shoulders are not carrying the greatest burden.
Labour MPs secured a St. David’s Day debate on the issues facing Wales and how we can harness the opportunities facing us and tackle the problems on the horizon.
I used my limited time in the debate to raise four points of concern. The way the UK Government has treated Wales in the past 9 years has been disgraceful. That is why I wanted answers on:
– A no deal Brexit;
– North Wales Growth Deal;
– Flintshire County Council funding; and
– Scrutiny of the UK Government in Parliament on Welsh affairs.
The Government have only given our police flat cash from central government funds with the additional funds coming from local council tax rates – meaning your council tax is going up to fund the shortfall the UK Government has installed.
But the question I wanted the minister to answer was where will the funding come from to support any pay rise that our police officers deserve. So far no promises have been made that this will come from central government meaning that it may have to come from more local council tax increases: all well and good for the wealthy south east of England but it will put untold burdens on Delyn households.
Disappointingly the minister failed to answer my question. He wrongly said that the funding provided was fair. Not only that but he tried to say that Labour voted against more funding. That is simply not true. I voted against the flat cash settlement the Government is now implementing. A flat cash settlement which will mean fewer police officers and stretched resources.
I am warning that the new police grant settlement proposed by the UK Government will mean that Council Tax will have to rise.
Today (19 December 2017), the Policing and the Fire Service minister, Nick Hurd MP, delivered the UK Government’s proposals for how much funding police forces in Wales and England will receive in 2018/19 financial year. What has been decided by the UK Government is to maintain police funding at the same levels as what they received for 2017/18. Although this may sound like funding levels have been maintained what this actually equates to is further cuts as inflation will erode away at the funding.
North Wales Police is set to receive a proposed £147.3m in 2018/19 and will be expected to use a combination of their reserves and increases in Council Tax to pay for the shortfall. Flintshire County Council is already seen huge pressures placed upon its budgets and needed to increase local taxation to try and make ends meet following UK Government cuts. The police precept increase will only drive up Council Tax bills further.
Using reserves may sound like a positive, but reserves should be used for one off expenditure. But the UK Government believe that the savings of North Wales Police should be used for annually reoccurring expenditure.
Since 2011/12 North Wales Police has had to deliver £29.62m cuts, representing a 20% cut in resources. This has resulted in an 18% reduction in the workforce and no budget has been unaffected.
Recently, the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner stated that they expect crime to rise in North Wales by 33% in 2017/18. This crime rise is no coincidence with the fall in police officers.
Yet again the Conservative Government’s policies in Westminster will make Council Tax increase in Flintshire. Instead of properly funding our police through central government funding they are placing the burden of costs squarely on the shoulders of Flintshire residents. What would have made far more sense is to spread the burden of policing costs across the whole country. Meaning that the wealth generated in the South East of England could be used to support communities like ours.
With crime expected to rise by 33% in the year ending 2017/18 it should be clear to everyone that we need more police on our streets. Community policing helps deter criminals and bolsters the links between police and neighbourhoods. This tackles crime at its root causes and makes policing much more effective and cost efficient. However, these cuts to policing will hinder the hard work of North Wales Police.
The proposals today are an affront to our community safety, our police officers and Council Tax payers. It demonstrates a UK Government that is only concentrated on the South East of England and a failed ideological project of austerity. I will not be supporting these proposals and will be calling for the UK Government to abandon them for a fairing funding deal.