Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Complexities of Police Funding

This is an article from Wrexham's Leader newspaper reporting on the North Wales PCC's presentation to Flintshire Council on future cuts and my response to the article.

Dear Editor,

Police Commissioner Winston Roddick paints a rather confusing picture of what the future holds for policing in North Wales (Leader, December 14th). He firstly claims that £8 million of cuts are required in a budget of £140 million over 4 years whilst the latest Police Efficiency Report by the Inspectorate claims that the savings required is £15.5 million... which is right?

The Inspectorate of Constabulary are also critical of the Commissioner, saying that the future policing model for North Wales is not sustainable and requires improvement. It explains why: "The Police and Crime Commissioner is funding the cost of additional police officers from the currently high level of reserves; this is not sustainable."

North Wales Police had reserves of £36 million in 2014/15 but this reduced to £23 million in 2015/16, a reduction in over 33%. This is not prudent financial management and a critical comment from the Inspectorate on 'sustainability' is totally justified.

In the 6 months leading up to the next PCC elections, perhaps this is the type of public relations exercise that we should expect from the incumbent commissioner and it seems that the next Commissioner will have a Liam Byrne-type note on his desk saying ‘sorry, the money’s all gone’.

Councillor Arfon Jones.
Prospective Plaid Cymru Candidate For Police Commissioner.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Former police inspector chosen as Plaid candidate for North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner

Plaid Cymru has selected experienced former policeman Arfon Jones to be their candidate for Police Commissioner for North Wales in next May's elections.

The former police inspector retired in 2008 after 30 years' service and is now a county councillor in Wrexham as well as serving on the North Wales Community Health Council, the patients' watchdog. 

Cllr Jones, of Gwersyllt, is originally from Harlech, Gwynedd, and served in every county in the North except for Anglesey during his long career. 

He was chosen to stand by Plaid Cymru's national council in Aberystwyth on Saturday. 

Cllr Jones, a father of two, said: 

"It's a great honour to represent Plaid Cymru in next year's elections because the police in North Wales are entering a critical period in the light of UK government cuts. 
"My extensive experience of policing in North Wales means that I understand what does and does not work. I have worked as a uniformed Constable as well as a Sergeant and Inspector both in uniform and as a detective in many departments include Child Protection. This was at the time Mr Justice Waterhouse published his report into child abuse in the area, 'Lost in Care'. 
"I also served as Detective Inspector in charge of the Crime Strategy and was part of the team that transformed communications systems in North Wales Police. I had also been seconded to the Regional Criminal Intelligence Office in Manchester for four years, where I was responsible for intelligence gathering on criminals that were operating across force boundaries. I completed my career in 2008 as an operational Inspector in the Eastern Area (Wrexham and Flintshire)

 Cllr Jones also has extensive experience of other public service having been a member of the North Wales Fire Service, served on Wrexham Council's executive board for four years and currently chairs the North Wales CHC's Wrexham Committee. 

Cllr Jones said: 

"I want to work with our chief constable to ensure fairer policing in all our communities, and to include the underprivileged and vulnerable people of our society.  
"There needs to be adequate justice services for children, who need to be kept out of the system's criminal prosecution and imprisonment unless there is no alternative. Creating criminals out of children has been a big mistake and has been very costly to society, let alone ruining the life chances of children. Prosecuting children is costly both financially and socially and it's about time for us to be more flexible in our response to children who commit crimes. 
"It's also important that we treat people who have offended and have mental health problems, or who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, as victims and not as criminals specially if the offence is minor. Imprisoning the homeless and other vulnerable members of society is not a good use of resources and achieves nothing. This is a problem for the Community Safety Partners to coordinate and get a better response from our health and social services." 
 He also argued that the police needed to think through more carefully some responses to public order situations, arguing that there was a disproportionate attitude at times: 
"The attitude of the police towards environmental protests and anti-fracking campaigns recently is a good example. Heavy-handed policing of protests always creates more problems. The same goes with football games, where police response to policing the game is causing great animosity between the fans and police. The policing of the Wrexham, Chester games is totally disproportionate with thousands of well behaved football fans being treated like criminals. I also believe that the management of the Police has moved too far from the local and is managed centrally by the state. The concept of 'Policing with consent' is long gone and with it the fact that the police should be impartial when they intervene between the people and the state. We need to redress the balance between the local and the national.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Upton Blockade.

Please support the people of Upton in their campaign to prevent IGas from 'fracking' their community by visiting the camp this weekend when the eviction notice ends. If you can't visit please tweet your support using the hastags #uptonblockade and #communityfightback

‘Bring football home’ campaign launched to create Welsh National Football Museum in Wrexham

An ambitious campaign to “bring football home” to its spiritual birthplace has been launched in Wrexham.

Plaid Cymru - The Party Of Wales is proposing that a Welsh National Football Museum be developed in Wrexham, the home of Welsh football.

Wrexham is where the first international match was played in Wales, where the oldest international ground in the world – the Racecourse - is located and where the Football Association of Wales was formed. It is also home to Wrexham AFC, one of the world’s oldest football clubs.
Launching the campaign at the Racecourse, Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s Wrexham candidate, said:

“Wales has a number of National Museums and Galleries but none of them are in the north-east. Creating a national football museum, similar to those in Manchester and Glasgow, would help redress that balance and emphasise the key role that the north-east and Wrexham specifically has had in the development of the game.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring together various elements of our footballing past together at a time when the future of Welsh football has never been brighter. It would also be a welcome boost for the town, attracting new visitors, creating work and providing an educational facility for youngsters.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s Clwyd South candidate, said:

“This is the perfect place to locate a national football museum. The north-east has been a hotbed of footballing talent from the days of Chirk’s Billy Meredith, who played professionally with Manchester United until he was 49, to Mark Hughes and Harry Wilson, of Corwen, who is Wales’s youngest ever international player.

“The aim of our campaign is to bring together all interested parties such as the Football Association of Wales, Wrexham AFC, Wrexham Council, the Welsh Government as well as cross-party support. With Wales qualifying for the European Championships in 2016, there’s never been a better time to celebrate our part in developing the Beautiful Game. We hope that football fans from across Wales and beyond will also support the campaign by joining our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.“We are confident that, with broad support, a business plan can be put in place to secure lottery funding to build and maintain the museum – as happened with the English national football museum in Manchester.”
Harry Wilson, who in October 2013 became the youngest-ever player to play for Wales, at the age of 16 years and 207 days, has added his backing for the campaign and is attending the launch of the campaign in Wrexham:

“Wales has got a great future ahead of it as a football nation and it’s important we remember and celebrate our past achievements and efforts too. Wrexham would be the ideal place for a national football museum for Wales and I urge everyone to get behind this campaign.”

Peter Jones, Wrexham Supporters' Trust chair and club historian, also backed the call for a museum. He said:

"Wrexham is absolutely steeped in Welsh football history and it's something I'm strongly for as a football club historian. I brought it up at a trust board meeting and they feel strongly that it's something that the town needs."

To support the campaign, please complete the form below

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Welsh Language Consultation.

Wrexham Council are undertaking a consultation regarding the use of the Welsh language which ends on the 16th January 2016. In the introduction it says:
The Council is undertaking this consultation in order to try and understand why there is so little interaction with the Council's services in Welsh and why the take up of services through the medium of Welsh is low and disappointing despite the Council providing opportunities, particularly online, for people to communicate in Welsh
The full consultation can be found here

One local resident was so incensed that he wrote the following letter to the council regarding its inadequacies of the survey:

I've filled in the on-line questionnaire, but have to say that in my opinion, it’s a poor and superficial survey and does little to explore residents’ underlying feelings regarding Welsh language issues. In particular, it’s very disappointing that there’s no room for comments – I tried to input some under ‘other’ in the final question, but it appeared to delete them when ‘next’ was clicked. Please accept this therefore as a fuller response.

Personally, I believe that to understand the lack of take-up for Welsh language services from the council, we have to look at the general picture of the status of welsh in the area, and the council’s role in that.

Just by way of background, I was born and brought up in Wrexham, the son of a Welsh-speaking mother but educated entirely in the medium of English. At the time, and from a practical point of view, there was no alternative and I was only able to learn Welsh (to a fairly good level of fluency) by my own efforts, and at my own expense, as an adult.

I actually learned more Welsh while living in Shropshire and Herefordshire in my twenties than I did in Wrexham.

When I grew up, not only was the provision of welsh language education inadequate, but the council’s literature, signage and so on (its ‘public face’) was also entirely English.

Of course, things have changed since then. (My two daughters went to Ysgol Plas Coch and Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, and are fluent). But the problem is that the improvements have only ever been at a pace, and to an extent, necessary to meet the bare limits of the council’s legal obligations.

If you leave out the National Eisteddfod’s two visits to the area, in fifty years I can’t ever recall seeing Wrexham Council ever doing anything over and above that.

On the other hand, there appears to be many occasions where it has adopted a negative approach towards the language, and the overall picture therefore is that it appears to have at best disinterest in the language, or at worst disdain for it.

At a minor level it shows itself at public events – for example, at the 2015 St. David’s Day parade where during the welcoming speeches (including one by a council representative) we had to wait until a full 6 minutes before a single word of welsh was spoken – not even a ‘croeso’ or ‘bore da’!

But at a more fundamental level, and far more worryingly, it shows itself in the approach to welsh medium education – the substantial opposition among councillors to the building of Ysgol Bro Aled, the recent issues where siblings have been split between schools due to capacity problems, and the apparent absence of planning for the future, or willingness to do anything until pressured.

Add to that the cutbacks to funding for Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, the lack of support for ventures such as ‘Saith Seren’, the lack of any official follow-up initiatives to the 2011 National Eisteddfod, and the reluctance to implement the Welsh Language Standards (and the completely inaccurate cost figures that were quoted regarding these) and the only logical conclusion any reasonable person can come to is that the council not only has no goodwill toward the language, but that it sees it as a nuisance, and is actively opposed to it.

Having said all that, I would admit that I don’t of course see everything that the council does, but if the council is doing something positive to encourage use of the language in the area, I would suggest that it needs to give its PR department a sharp kick up the backside, as it’s hard to see any evidence of it.

So against this background, why would residents be encouraged to approach the council in welsh? The assumption, quite naturally, will be that it’s unwelcome, and though there will be a few who do it to make a statement or protest, the reality is that it’s not in most people’s nature to do that. So they take the easy route, and approach the council in the only language it appears to willingly, rather than grudgingly, support.

It’s encouraging that you’re undertaking this consultation but I really do hope that you look beyond the bare statistics it produces, question your residents a bit further, and also question the council and councillors’ culture and attitudes. And recognise that changing language use towards people’s first preferences won’t be an overnight exercise, but a long-term one that will need to successfully correct perceptions acquired over half a century.

Always assuming of course that you’re not just looking for an excuse to do the bare minimum again?

I couldn't sum up the definition of 'suppressed demand' any better than that.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

No to bombing Syria

Why we're urging our Labour MP for Wrecsam Ian Lucas to vote against bombing Syria.