Skip to content

Police Restructuring

Related Links

Tell us if you want any of the documents on this page in an alternative format.
Edwina Hart, Minister for Social Justice and Regeneration
Members may wish to have an update on the issues related to police restructuring following the Home Secretary’s written statement to Parliament last Friday.  Charles Clarke’s Statement gave formal notice of his intention to merge a number of police force areas, including the four Welsh police force areas.  

The Home Secretary’s latest announcement states “that on the basis of the protective services assessment undertaken by HMIC and an evaluation of the financial and other aspects of the business cases submitted by the forces in December, it would be in the interests of the efficiency and effectiveness of policing for the forces in Wales to merge”.   He has therefore given formal notice under sections 32 and 33 of the Police Act 1996 of his intention to merge the four Welsh forces.  In Wales, the police authorities, local authorities, chief constables and Welsh Assembly Government now have until 2 July to submit any objections to the proposed merger.   Subject to consideration of any objections received to the merger, the Home Secretary proposes to lay the necessary draft orders for approval by both Houses in Westminster in July, with a view to the new forces coming into being from 1 April 2007.

Members will recall my Statement to this Chamber on this subject on 8 February, in which I made it clear that the funding of the restructuring, bridging the level 2 gap and council tax equalisation needed to be clarified in time to inform the police authorities’ decisions on voluntary mergers before the deadline of 24 February. I am continuing to press the Home Secretary about these matters.

I wrote to Charles Clarke on 1 March and expressed my concern that he was beginning the formal merger procedures in advance of providing clarity on the finance issues.  Charles Clarke did provide some figures relating to the financing of the restructuring and level 2 costs last week.  However, neither we nor the police restructuring team have seen the detailed assessment which was prepared by the consultants for the Home Office, on which these figures are based.   I cannot therefore form any view on whether these proposals are satisfactory.   I understand that the officials’  tripartite working group, of which we are members, has not yet considered these figures.   I am, therefore, still awaiting assurances from the Home Secretary that any additional costs will not fall to Welsh Council Tax payers or the Welsh Assembly Government’s budget.

In addition to the costs of restructuring, the issues surrounding the equalisation of council tax are also not yet resolved.  As Members will appreciate the figures on this issue are changing as police authorities set their precepts for 2006-07. However, based on new 2006-07 precepts, the average precept for Wales would be £145.  Equalisation at this new average without an additional funding would  mean a reduction for Dyfed Powys from £150, Gwent from £152 and North Wales from £167 but an increase for South Wales from £126.  For South Wales this would amount to an increase in the precept of nearly 15 per cent.    If that is indeed to be the outcome, we will be pressing for a staged approach to equalisation over a number of years.

In the last two weeks I have also had meetings with the Chief Constables and Chairs of Police Authorities in Wales.  In our discussions about restructuring, it has become clear to me that the April 2007 date for establishing a new strategic authority is very ambitious indeed.   There are very many significant practical and strategic issues that need to be resolved in order for a new authority to operate effectively.  I therefore intend to suggest to the Home Secretary that he should consider establishing a shadow authority from April 2007 and allow a further 12 month period to implement the required changes. On that basis, the new all-Wales force would not come into being until April 2008.

There remains uncertainty, in some quarters, over the future size of a new strategic police authority and I want to take this opportunity to clarify the situation.   For a  transitional period, the new authority will have 43 members. However,  this  is not ideal in terms of the effective discharge of the authority's business in the longer term and  accordingly, following the enactment of the Police and Justice Bill, membership of the authority will be reduced to 33 members.  The membership will still comprise representatives from each of the 22 local authorities in Wales together with 11 independent members.  It seems that in some quarters, the proposed reduction in membership from 43 to 33 was misinterpreted as being planned to take account of a proposed reorganisation of local government in Wales.   This is  not the case;  reorganisation of local government in Wales is not on the Welsh Assembly Government’s agenda.   The outcome of the Beecham review  will assist us in delivering the greater collaboration and joint working in line with “Making the Connections” agenda.

I will continue to keep you informed any future developments on police restructuring.