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Isherwood: Strengthening the police force in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"The Home Secretary has presented our chief constables with an ultimatum. The most fundamental restructuring of Britain's police force is to be rushed through based on regional boundaries imposed more by European Commission diktat than operational reality.

I therefore support joint amendment 5. No Member can claim to represent his or her constituents unless they condemn a consultation that failed to formally consult the Assembly, to fully consider Welsh circumstances and to make a case for the change.

By stipulating the criteria in advance, the Home Secretary is like an end-of-the-pier magician, writing a number on a card, placing the card in his inside pocket and then inviting a member of the audience to select any number that meets his directions, which miraculously turns out to be the same as the number that he then produces from his inside pocket.

The Home Secretary stipulates a minimum size of force, but where is the evidence base for that? As the Welsh Local Government Association told us, this is a subjective view and not one being pursued by the Scottish Executive.

In Home Office questions in London yesterday, it was claimed that these proposals would maintain and develop cross-border working between police regions.

However, logic dictates the contrary if regional command structures are imposed on areas that are not integrated geographically or operationally.

North Wales has proposed a closer partnership arrangement with Cheshire constabulary or its successor in recognition of their cross-border operational reality.

This is not a merger proposal but it is a proposal that will be threatened if the Home Secretary's grandiose schemes become a reality.

Gwent also has strong cross-border ties with forces in south-west England. I can say it because we are talking about a new regional command structure that completely ignores the history, geography and transport links of Wales as well as the operational reality that north Wales, in this instance, has ploughed its own furrow for decades, if not centuries, in terms of dealing with the terrorist threat, west and east, and the high level of crime and drugs that come in from the west and east, and in co-operating with forces across the border in both directions when there have been major incidences of public disorder and major terrorist incidences.

As Nick said, we risk breaking something that is not broken. The Home Secretary expects this to somehow improve matters when he has not produced any detailed evidence or consultation to support it.

The Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales states that we cannot isolate ourselves and not share intelligence and operations, whether or not we are linked by a common badge in south Wales.

With reference to local accountability, he stated that we have structures and partnerships in place that should be built on and not swept aside.

The Gwent branch has stated that the strength of policing in Wales is in the communities. The chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police voiced concern that there was so little time for consultation when such big changes were being considered.

The chief constable of South Wales Police told south Wales Members of Parliament that the expected cost of reorganisation was £10 million, with the final bill likely to be more as the reserve funds of forces' budgets would also be required to fund the policy.

The police authorities stated that the additional all-Wales annual cost of reorganisation would, as we heard, be up to £57 million, with the chief constable saying that it would be even more.

Additional set-up costs and the fact that any savings could take up to 10 years to materialise blow a hole in the Home Secretary's uncosted claim that savings will be achieved in the first year.

The impact on police precepts and council tax cannot be ignored, and we need time to explore claims, such as that made by North Wales Police Authority that a budget increase of just £3 million would allow it to meet the service levels demanded by the Home Secretary.

Unison has told us that the proposed restructuring could lead to the loss of 1,000 non-police staff jobs. When I questioned it on this, it confirmed that uniformed officers are still carrying out paperwork that would be better carried out by their members.

We must therefore remove the perverse incentive that keeps police officers in back rooms rather than on our streets.

This reinforces the argument made by the Police Federation for a royal commission into policing to be set up, to include an independent evaluation of the role of community safety officers.

Our chief constables were already discussing proposals for shared corporate services that do not need to be centralised at one location, but which recognise that operational integration has never, and can never, truly exist within an all-Wales context.

Effective co-operation between North Wales Police and bodies such as the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service already exists, and makes a mockery of the claim that only devolution will facilitate this.

Claims that efficiency can only be achieved within regional boundaries are further undermined by the fact that the judicial system, for example, operates on a Wales and Chester circuit, and that, in a different context, the current secondary healthcare review in north Wales includes the Countess of Chester Hospital. That is operational reality.

Before concluding, I must question whether all Welsh forces perform to a higher standard than their English counterparts, as some claim.

Home Office figures for July 2005 show that overall recorded crime across England and Wales is still 9 per cent higher than it was prior to devolution."

"Mae'r Ysgrifennydd Cartref wedi cyflwyno cynnig terfynol i'n prif gwnstabliaid. Bwriedir rhuthro ailstrwythuro mwyaf sylfaenol heddlu Prydain trwodd ar sail ffiniau rhanbarthol sydd wedi'u gorfodi fwy gan ddictad y Comisiwn Ewropeaidd na gwirioneddau gweithredol. Yr wyf felly'n cefnogi cyd-welliant 5.

Ni all yr un Aelod honni ei fod ef neu hi'n cynrychioli eu hetholwyr oni bai eu bod yn condemnio ymgynghoriad a fethodd ag ymgynghori'n ffurfiol â'r Cynulliad, nad yw wedi rhoi ystyriaeth lawn i amgylchiadau Cymru nac wedi llwyddo i gyflwyno dadl gref dros newid.

Trwy osod y meini prawf ymlaen llaw, mae'r Ysgrifennydd Cartref fel consuriwr ar ben draw pier, yn ysgrifennu rhif ar gerdyn, rhoi'r cerdyn yn ei boced ac yna'n gwahodd aelod o'r gynulleidfa i ddewis unrhyw gerdyn sy'n cyd-fynd â'i gyfarwyddiadau sydd wedyn, trwy ryw wyrth, yr un rhif ag y mae'n ei dynnu allan o'i boced.

Mae'r Ysgrifennydd Cartref yn pennu isafswm ar gyfer maint heddluoedd, ond lle mae'r dystiolaeth dros wneud hynny?

Fel y dywedodd Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru wrthym, mae hwn yn safbwynt goddrychol, ac nid yw'n un y mae Gweithrediaeth yr Alban am ei arddel. Yn ystod cwestiynau'r Swyddfa Gartref yn Llundain ddoe, honnwyd y byddai'r cynigion hyn yn cynnal ac yn datblygu cydweithio ar draws ffiniau rhwng rhanbarthau'r heddlu.

Fodd bynnag, mae rhesymeg yn awgrymu'r gwrthwyneb os yw strwythurau rheoli rhanbarthol yn cael eu gorfodi ar ardaloedd nad ydynt yn integredig o safbwynt daearyddol na gweithredol. Mae Gogledd Cymru wedi cynnig trefniadau partneriaeth agosach gyda heddlu swydd Gaer neu ei olynydd sy'n cydnabod realiti eu gwaith ar draws ffiniau.

Nid yw hwn yn gynnig i uno ond mae'n gynnig a fydd mewn perygl os caiff cynlluniau aruchel yr Ysgrifennydd Cartref eu gwireddu.

Mae gan Went hefyd gysylltiadau traws ffiniol cryf gyda heddluoedd yn ne-orllewin Lloegr.

Gallaf ddweud hynny gan ein bod yn sôn am strwythur rheoli rhanbarthol newydd sy'n diystyru hanes, daearyddiaeth a chysylltiadau trafnidiaeth Cymru'n llwyr yn ogystal â'r realiti gweithredol fod gogledd Cymru, yn hyn o beth, wedi torri ei gwys ei hun ers degawdau, os nad canrifoedd, o ran delio gyda'r bygythiad o derfysgaeth, o'r gorllewin a'r dwyrain, a'r lefel uchel o droseddu a chyffuriau sy'n dod o'r gorllewin a'r dwyrain, a thrwy gydweithredu gyda heddluoedd ar draws y ffin pan fu achosion mawr o anrhefn gyhoeddus ac achosion o derfysgaeth ddifrifol.

Fel y dywedodd Nick, yr ydym mewn perygl o chwalu rhywbeth sy'n gyfan ar hyn o bryd. Mae'r Ysgrifennydd Cartref yn disgwyl y bydd hyn yn gwella pethau rywsut er nad yw wedi dangos unrhyw dystiolaeth fanwl nac ymgynghoriad i ategu hynny.

Dywed Cadeirydd Ffederasiwn Heddlu Lloegr a Chymru na allwn ynysu ein hunain a pheidio rhannu gwybodaeth a gweithrediadau, boed ni wedi'n cysylltu trwy fathodyn cyffredin yn ne Cymru neu beidio.

Gan gyfeirio at atebolrwydd lleol, dywedodd fod gennym strwythurau a phartneriaethau ar waith y dylid ychwanegu atynt ac nid eu hysgubo o'r neilltu.

Mae cangen Gwent wedi datgan mai cryfder plismona yng Nghymru yw'r cymunedau. Mae prif gwnstabl Dyfed-Powys wedi mynegi pryder bod cyn lleied o amser ar gael i ymgynghori pan fo newidiadau mor fawr yn cael eu hystyried. Dywedodd prif gwnstabl Heddlu De Cymru wrth Aelodau Seneddol y De y disgwylid i gost yr ad-drefnu fod yn £10 miliwn, gyda'r gost derfynol yn debygol o fod yn fwy gan y byddai'n rhaid gwario cronfeydd wrth gefn cyllidebau'r heddluoedd i ariannu'r polisi.

Dywedodd yr awdurdodau heddlu y byddai cost ychwanegol yr ad-drefnu i Gymru gyfan, fel y clywsom, gymaint â £57 miliwn, gyda'r prif gwnstabl yn dweud y byddai hyd yn oed yn fwy na hynny.

Mae costau sefydlu ychwanegol a'r ffaith y gallai unrhyw arbedion gymryd hyd at 10 mlynedd i ymddangos yn chwythu twll yn honiad yr Ysgrifennydd Cartref, sydd heb ei gostio, y ceir arbedion yn y flwyddyn gyntaf.

Ni ellir anwybyddu'r effaith ar braeseptau heddlu a threth gyngor, ac mae arnom angen amser i ymchwilio i haeriadau, megis hwnnw a wneir gan Awdurdod Heddlu'r Gogledd, y byddai cynnydd o ddim ond £3 miliwn yn y gyllideb yn caniatáu iddo gyflawni'r lefelau gwasanaeth a fynnir gan yr Ysgrifennydd Cartref.

Mae Unsain wedi dweud wrthym y gallai'r ailstrwythuro arfaethedig arwain at golli 1,000 o swyddi staff nad ydynt yn heddlu. Pan holais yr undeb ynglyn â hyn, cadarnhaodd fod swyddogion mewn lifrai'n dal i wneud gwaith papur y byddai'n well pe câi ei wneud gan eu haelodau hwy. Rhaid inni felly ddileu'r cymhelliad gwrthnysig sy'n cadw swyddogion heddlu mewn ystafelloedd cefn yn hytrach nag ar ein strydoedd.

Mae hyn yn atgyfnerthu'r ddadl a wnaethpwyd gan Ffederasiwn yr Heddlu dros sefydlu comisiwn brenhinol i ymchwilio i ddulliau plismona, a fyddai'n cynnwys gwerthusiad annibynnol o rôl swyddogion diogelwch cymunedol.

Yr oedd ein prif gwnstabliaid eisoes yn trafod cynigion ar gyfer rhannu gwasanaethau corfforaethol heb fod angen eu canoli mewn un lleoliad, ond gan gydnabod nad yw integreiddio gweithredol erioed wedi, ac na all fyth, fodoli mewn gwirionedd yng nghyd-destun Cymru gyfan.

Mae cydweithredu effeithiol rhwng Heddlu'r Gogledd a chyrff megis Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub Gogledd Cymru eisoes yn bodoli, ac yn gwneud cyff gwawd o'r honiad mai dim ond datganoli all hwyluso hyn.

Tanseilir honiadau mai dim ond o fewn ffiniau rhanbarthol y gellir sicrhau effeithlonrwydd ymhellach gan y ffaith fod y system farnwrol, er enghraifft, yn gweithredu ar gylchdro Cymru a Chaer, ac, mewn cyd-destun gwahanol, bod yr adolygiad gofal iechyd eilaidd cyfredol yng ngogledd Cymru yn cynnwys Ysbyty Iarlles Caer. Dyna'r realiti gweithredol.

Cyn cloi, rhaid imi gwestiynu a yw pob heddlu yng Nghymru'n perfformio i safon uwch na'u cymheiriaid yn Lloegr, fel yr honna rhai. Dengys ffigurau'r Swyddfa Gartref am fis Gorffennaf 2005 fod y cyfanswm troseddu a gofnodir ar draws Cymru a Lloegr yn dal i fod 9 y cant yn uwch nag yr oedd cyn datganoli."

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