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Isherwood: Effective policing for Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"We welcome Tony McNulty's announcement that he may delay the merger of the four police forces and his pledge for a more hands-on approach, working with you and the four chief constables. We thank you for securing this meeting with him and for raising the key financial issues, particularly the initial set-up costs and the council tax precepts.

We also thank you for your statement that costs should not fall on the Assembly's budget or on Welsh council tax payers, and for the pressure that you have applied for the timetable to be reconsidered. We also welcome your announcement that Mr McNulty has agreed to visit Wales to meet with you and the chief constables. However, following the Social Justice and Regeneration Committee meeting a few weeks ago, at which we took evidence from the chief constables, the police authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association, a number of questions are still outstanding.

The police authorities stated that they believed that the Home Office has thus far given them contradictory advice, illustrating a lack of understanding and ability to make decisions within a very challenging timeframe, and what they called a 'dire financial situation'. The chief constables' spokesman on this occasion, Richard Brunstrom, stated that promises had been made to the public that had not been financed.

The Welsh Local Government Association spokesman stated: 'I am watching a bacon sandwich fly past the window'.

Moving on to the specifics, what are your feelings about the concern that operational support for restructuring will be withdrawn by the chief constables unless the matter is resolved by 1 June?

How much of this meeting was driven by their deadline? The letter that they produced after their meeting in the Assembly a few weeks ago raised what they were saying in particular, namely that it was a doomed plan without sustainable financing or a realistic timescale. To what extent will their deadline of 1 April 2008 be addressed, or are you still waiting to ascertain that?

They stated that they had yet to meet anyone from the Home Office who had any understanding of the implications on council tax payers in Wales. Have you received assurances that there will now be experts in place who will understand those implications?

Paul Goggins, the previous Home Office Minister, stated categorically that once the extra money provided by the UK Government had gone, the money for the mergers would have to be found locally and the extra sum for policing would be added to the council tax. All witnesses agreed that the issue was fundamentally one of finance and that there would be a £79 million deficit by 2012-13, adding that that was by no means a worst-case scenario and that we could see the deficit rising to £100 million. To what extent do your concerns about up-front costs and the council tax address that? Can you assure us that, in addition to those points, you will be addressing these ongoing revenue and occasional capital costs that were identified to the committee?

How will you address the concerns raised by the chief constables that, under the proposed all-Wales system, they might lose a grant from London that they would otherwise have received?

How will the regional, cultural and geographical differences that were identified by the experts be addressed, in the sense that they all recognise that policing in Wales must be regional?

What considerations have you had about that? Finally, how would you address the points made by the WLGA and the police authorities that, if satisfaction was not received, they would consider a judicial review, and the fact that even the chief constables stated that they had, in extremis, other alternatives?"

"Yr ydym yn croesawu cyhoeddiad Tony McNulty y bydd efallai'n gohirio uno'r pedwar heddlu a'i addewid i ymwneud mwy â'r mater, drwy weithio gyda chi a'r pedwar prif gwnstabl. Diolchwn ichi am gael y cyfarfod hwn gydag ef ac am godi'r materion ariannol hollbwysig, yn enwedig y costau sefydlu cychwynnol a phraeseptau'r dreth gyngor.

Diolchwn ichi hefyd am eich datganiad na ddylai'r costau ddisgyn ar gyllideb y Cynulliad nac ar drethdalwyr cyngor Cymru, ac am y pwysau a roesoch arno i ailystyried yr amserlen. Yr ydym hefyd yn croesawu eich cyhoeddiad bod Mr McNulty wedi cytuno i ymweld â Chymru i gwrdd â chi a'r prif gwnstabliaid.

Fodd bynnag, yn dilyn cyfarfod y Pwyllgor Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol ac Adfywio rai wythnosau'n ôl, lle clywsom dystiolaeth gan y prif gwnstabliaid, awdurdodau'r heddlu a Chymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru, mae nifer o gwestiynau sydd heb eu hateb o hyd. Dywedodd awdurdodau'r heddlu y credant fod y Swyddfa Gartref wedi rhoi cyngor croes iddynt hyd yma, sy'n dangos diffyg dealltwriaeth ac nad yw'n gallu gwneud penderfyniadau o fewn amserlen bur dynn, a'r hyn y cyfeiriwyd ati fel 'sefyllfa ariannol enbyd'.

Dywedodd llefarydd ar ran y prif gwnstabliaid y tro hwnnw, Richard Brunstrom, fod addewidion wedi eu gwneud i'r cyhoedd ond nad oedd cyllid ar eu cyfer.

Dywedodd y llefarydd ar ran Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru: yr wyf yn edrych ar frechdan bacwn yn hedfan heibio i'r ffenestr.

Gan symud at y glo mân, beth yw eich teimladau am y pryder y bydd cymorth gweithredol i'r ad-drefnu yn cael ei dynnu'n ôl gan y prif gwnstabliaid oni bai y caiff y mater ei ddatrys erbyn 1 Mehefin?

Faint o'r cyfarfod hwn oedd wedi'i sbarduno gan eu dyddiad terfynol hwy? Yr oedd y llythyr a gynhyrchwyd ganddynt yn dilyn eu cyfarfod yn y Cynulliad rai wythnosau'n ôl yn codi'r hyn yr oeddent yn ei ddweud yn benodol, sef ei fod yn gynllun dan farn heb gyllid cynaliadwy nac amserlen realistig.

I ba raddau y gwneir ymdrech i gwrdd â'u dyddiad terfynol, sef 1 Ebrill 2008, neu a ydych yn dal i aros am gadarnhad o hynny?

Dywedasant eu bod eto i gyfarfod rhywun o'r Swyddfa Gartref a oedd ag unrhyw ddealltwriaeth o'r goblygiadau ar drethdalwyr cyngor Cymru. A gawsoch eich sicrhau y bydd arbenigwyr bellach yn eu lle a fydd yn deall y goblygiadau hynny? Dywedodd Paul Goggins, y Gweinidog blaenorol yn y Swyddfa Gartref, yn hollol bendant, unwaith y byddai'r arian ychwanegol gan Lywodraeth y DU wedi mynd, y byddai'n rhaid dod o hyd i'r arian ar gyfer uno yn lleol ac y byddai'r arian pellach i dalu am blismona yn cael ei ychwanegu at y dreth gyngor.

Cytunai'r tystion i gyd mai problem gyllid ydoedd yn y bôn ac y byddai diffyg o £79 miliwn erbyn 2012-13, gan ychwanegu mai nid y senario waethaf o bell ffordd oedd hynny a'i bod yn bosibl i'r diffyg godi i £100 miliwn. I ba raddau y mae eich pryderon ynghylch costau sefydlu a'r dreth gyngor yn cynnwys hynny? A allwch ein sicrhau y byddwch, yn ychwanegol at y pwyntiau hynny, yn trafod y costau refeniw parhaus a'r costau cyfalaf achlysurol y clywodd y pwyllgor amdanynt?

Sut y byddwch yn ateb y pryderon a godwyd gan y prif gwnstabliaid, sef, o dan y system Cymru gyfan arfaethedig, y gallent golli grant gan Lundain y byddent fel arall wedi'i dderbyn? Sut y bydd y gwahaniaethau rhanbarthol, diwylliannol a daearyddol y cyfeiriwyd atynt gan yr arbenigwyr yn derbyn sylw, o ran eu bod i gyd yn cydnabod bod yn rhaid i blismona yng Nghymru fod yn rhanbarthol?

Pa ystyriaethau ynghylch hynny a wnaethoch? Yn olaf, sut y byddwch yn ateb y pwyntiau a wnaed gan Gymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru ac awdurdodau'r heddlu, sef, os na fydd y materion hyn yn cael eu datrys yn foddhaol, y byddant yn ystyried adolygiad barnwrol, a'r ffaith bod hyd yn oed y prif gwnstabliaid wedi dweud bod ganddynt opsiynau eraill, pe bai'n dod at hynny?"

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