One Police Wales naive because ‘criminal threat’ comes from England says former North Wales police boss
A former North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner has said that the idea of merging Wales’ police forces into one was “naive” because the “criminal threat” for both the north and south of Wales came from the east in England.
Arfon Jones was responding to Chief Constable Dr Richard Lewis of Dyfed Powys Police who had called for Wales’ four forces to be united in the same way as Police Scotland.
But Arfon Jones who stepped down at last year’s election told Golwg360 that it wasn’t “a good idea,” adding that funding would also be centralised in the south-east of Wales as a result.
“The way we should look at policing is to look at the operational side,” he said.
“When you look at the north of Wales, and the rest of Wales really, the criminal threat doesn’t come from the north or south, it comes from the east and west.
“The threat to us in the north comes from Manchester and Liverpool, and the threat to south Wales comes from Bristol and London.
“It comes down the M5 and the M4, it doesn’t come from mid-Wales.
“So I personally think that if they unite into one force, everything will be focused on the M4 area and there will be nothing but crumbs for the rest of us.
“That would be bad for the safety of people in north and west Wales.”
His words echo those of Chief Constable Carl Foulkes of North Wales Police who said on Thursday that for him the major organised crime came from “left to right rather than up and down”.
He was speaking at a special one-off session on policing in Wales at the Welsh Affairs Committee this week.
“It comes from Mersyside, it comes from Manchester. So all my working partnerships were from the north-west [of England],” he said.
“But our shared culture, our shared language are absolutely in Wales. So there are some challenges for us to move and get over in North Wales.
“How do you maintain that local service delivery on a national level, which could be a challenge.”
Both were responding to Richard Lewis who called for an united force, and had told the BBC: “Doing away with those borders means we can provide a more effective service.”
“One chief constable rather than four. One deputy chief constable. Dare I say one commissioner instead of four,” he said.
“Police Scotland had a difficult start but I think they’re now seeing the benefits of having one national service in Scotland.
“We can learn the lessons, of course, from those early days in Scotland… creating national structures in the IT world et cetera.”
The Chief Constable of South Wales has said that policing would need to be devolved to Wales before combining all four police forces into one Police Wales would make work.
Jeremy Vaughan said that under the present system, where the Home Office had created 43 Police and Crime Commissioners to set policing priorities, it was not up to him to “instigate the conversation”.
“I don’t think you could go for a single Welsh police force until you devolve policing to Wales,” he said.
“Because otherwise, I don’t really see the benefit of operating on a single force model, if you wouldn’t then have a greater degree of leverage and influence with partners in Wales.
“And that would have to happen alongside the devolution of policing and for me. Because to maximise the benefits and the costs that is a patently political decision.”
He added that he had “no doubt” a single Welsh police force would be more efficient.
“You could with a greater scale have better single IT infrastructure systems, you could have better back-office functions, and you could have a greater procurement ability, albeit we do procure a lot on a all-Wales basis now. So the potential for you to do things at scale more efficiently, I think is clear.”
However, he added that it “wasn’t clear” whether the service would be better as a result. He noted that there were big differences between policing Dolgellau where he grew up and Swansea. “You’re never going to get a riot in Dolgellau, but we had one in Swansea recently.”
“And I think that means that the way that we deliver policing services would I think take quite a long time for it to settle down to deliver a better service,” he said. “I don’t think this will ever be a short term delivery.
“You might deliver efficiencies in the short term, but service improvement could take longer to embed and whether there was the political will and appetite to see that unfold over time.”
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