Friday, February 23, 2007

South Wales Police Funding Shortfall

It is indeed worrying news that the South Wales Police Force are to face a £3.6 million funding shortfall. The situation in North Wales is even worse - they are to face a £5 million funding shortfall.

BBC News have reported that:

"South Wales Police Authority chairman Ray Thomas said front-line services would not be affected immediately because of savings, but he warned neighbourhood policing could be affected if cuts continued. "

This is particularly worrying news since The Telegraph has recently reported that there are as little as 3 Police Officers on patrol at night. How much worse can the situation become?

The stark reality is that the extra funding to meet this shortfall will have to be found from Council Tax increases - yet again, hitting those hardest who can least afford to pay. The Liberal Democrats have campaigned, and continue to campaign, to scrap the regressive Council Tax and replace it with a Local Income Tax, based on peoples ability to pay.

It is also the Liberal Democrats who have campaigned that the Billions of pounds the Government proposes to spend on introducing ID cards would be better spent to:

· Fund 10,000 more police on top of Labour's plans - as well as completing existing plans for an extra 20,000 community support officers to back them up.

· Equip police with new technology to cut time spent form-filling and help them tackle crime (e.g. handheld computers for beat bobbies so they don't have to return to the station so often).

· Support the inclusion of biometrics in passports only, as a means of combating cross- border crime, illegal immigration, terrorism and fraud.

· Establish a National Border Agency by bringing together the officers from immigration, police and customs who currently have overlapping responsibilities at our ports and airports.

· Crack down on illegal working by improving the way the home office inspects and prosecutes employers of illegal migrants. Allow the use of phone-taps and other 'intercept communications' as evidence against suspected terrorists in court, to make it easier to bring them to court.

Recently, we launched our "We Can Cut Crime" campaign outlining many new initiatives aimed at tackling crime, disorder and prison overcrowding.

Visit our We Can Cut Crime website for more details.

- Richie Northcote 23 Feb 07

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Talbot Park vandalism goes on

We predicted that the sale of the Talbot Memorial Park lodges would end in tears.

Instead of improving the quality of the environment of the park, the Council's sale has aggravated yob vandalism. The Evening Post reports that the couple who bought one of the lodges were heartbroken and have had to give up in despair.

In Port Talbot and Taibach, as elsewhere, we need more police and support officers on the ground, as our regional AM, Peter Black, has demanded. In addition, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, as pioneered by Islington Borough Council under the LibDems, reduce anti-social behaviour by increasing community involvement. For more, see our PoD 38.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blair and Reid quick on the trigger

But not asking questions first.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary John Reid have announced moves to tackle gun crime with more severe sentences. However, legislation on its own does not work; the Firearms Acts of 1988 and 1997 have not reduced the number of firearms held illegally.

The answer is two-fold and simple: catch the people with guns (likelihood
of arrest is a better deterrent than draconian sentencing) and cut the
supply of guns.

Not easy, admittedly, but point one can be addressed by putting more
police on the streets and getting them involved in all the community.
There has been an attitude of letting sub-cultures sort out their own

The second point is more difficult. There are some, including the Office of Legislative Affairs who say that "Striving to take guns `out of circulation' is probably a waste of effort and money, for illegal supply may be expected always to fulfil criminal demand." Surely, though, we should make the effort? There has been no serious attempt to do so

Nor has the government yet set up the firearms register, which it was committed to do under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, rushed through after Dunblane.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Liberal Democrats demand more free ATMS

Citizens of many towns and villages in Neath Port Talbot are denied easy access to their own money from their own bank accounts.

Some places still have post offices, where it is possible to access accounts with some - though not all - clearing banks. But post offices are open only five-and-a-half days a week, and what about the times in the evening, or at weekends, when you need cash? Outside the borough centre, the only possibility is often an ATM (automatic teller machine) in a convenience store which charges £1.50 or more for you to get hold of your own money.

Jackie Radford, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Social Justice, and candidate for this region in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections, has called for more free ATMs. In government, we would make it easier for councils such as Neath Port Talbot to use the planning laws to ensure that everyone in the borough is within reasonable distance of a free facility to access a bank account.

(See Pick of the Day #35).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More Dental Shortages Feared

The Guardian is reporting, this morning, that according to a Government memo, many people will be unable to get treatment from their dentist as the financial year draws to a close since NHS Dentists are only paid for a set number of Units of Dental Activity (UDA) under their new contracts. The report goes on to say:

But a report in the Health Service Journal (HSJ) says that patients may have to resort to emergency care or find an alternative practice because their dentists have fulfilled their annual contracts too soon.

A memo from the Department of Health warns primary care trusts to have "clear lines ready in case of media interest" if patients are left without a dentist as the financial year comes to an end, the HSJ reports.

The letter says PCTs must "ensure patients know how to access urgent care, publicise any spare capacity in other dental practices locally, and have clear lines ready in case of media interest".

Several PCTs contacted by the HSJ said problems were arising in some practices, with plans to introduce "pooling" systems to farm out patients to alternative dentists.

This is going to be hard news to swallow for many individuals and families alike. It is hard enough finding a NHS Dentist in the first place let alone the prospect of finding out that after having found one you may not be treated because many have fulfilled their “Quota” of UDA’s.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Geoffrey Wheatcrofts' comments on Peter Hain in todays Guardian

Below is an extract from an article in todays Guardian by Geoffrey Wheatcroft:

Gordon Brown comes out of Iraq better than Peter Hain. It is a very long time since British politics has witnessed anything quite as abject and contemptible as Hain's recent interview in the New Statesman.

"The neocon mission has failed," Hain proclaims - now. "People have forgotten about [the government's achievements] because of the Iraq conflict," the Northern Ireland secretary tells us - now. The government found itself working with "the most rightwing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory", he observes - now, in the year 2007, just as he happens to be running for the Labour deputy leadership.

But really, what an utter wretch this man is! What a dismal, slippery poltroon! Like Molière's Monsieur Jourdain learning that he had been speaking prose all his life, Hain suddenly discovers that George Bush is a rightwing politician, something he evidently never noticed in the years when Bush was governor of Texas, and presided over the execution of 153 people - on one occasion publicly mocking a woman he had put to death - or indeed when he reached the White House.

It's quite true that we took part in the Iraq war in order to demonstrate our - or Blair's - absolute loyalty to that American administration. Like Brown, Hain was a member of the cabinet when the war began. Like him, he could have resigned. Like him, he decided, in Lloyd George's phrase, to perish with his drawn salary in his hands.

In fact, Hain went further. Two years ago he was still defending the case for regime change, or insisting that "an Iraq moving into democracy provides a better future for the Iraqi people". And he sneered at what he called the "tired old attack" which "questions the prime minister's integrity" - over the dossiers and claims about weapons of mass destruction, that is.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tewkesbury Lib Dems Achieve a Massive 45.3% Swing in Recent By-Election!

By-Election Results: Thursday 1st February 2007.

Tewkesbury BC, Brockworth

LD Maureen Rowcliffe-Quarry 639 (45.3; +45.3), Con 343 (24.3; +6.4), Lab 237 (16.8; -15.1), Residents 193 (13.7; -27.7), [Green (0.0; -8.7)].

Majority 296. Turnout 28.8%. LD gain from Residents. Last fought 2003.

The Tories more or less flatlined and the Labour vote collapsed!!

Well Done Tewkesbury Liberal Democrats!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Laura Norder (2)

Andrew Stunell (Liberal Democrat, Manchester Hazel Grove) yesterday asked a pointed, if lengthy, question of the Prime Minister at Question Time:

"The Prime Minister will know that there has been a drop of a hundred and seventy-three police officers across England and Wales in the first six months of this year. He will also know there has been a cut of two hundred and sixteen police officers in Greater Manchester. Bearing in mind that his staff believe that there has been too much police attention to his area, and my constituents believe there has been far too little attention to policing in my area, will he arrange for a transfer of resources so that both he and I can have a good night's sleep?"

The reply was classic Blair. First, he did not answer either the direct question or the implied ones. Second, he attacked the Tory record (after ten years, that is becoming irrelevant). Third, he reeled off a set of statistics. Finally, he lied about Liberal Democrats' voting record on crime legislation.

"Well, first of all, let me remind the honourable gentleman that actually we've got record numbers of police - over 140,000 - that is some 14,000 more than we inherited in 1997. In addition to that, of course, we've got thousands of community support officers and in addition to that of course as a result of the anti-social behaviour legislation that in areas such as his we're now able to take action against those people making life hell for people in their communities. And what have all three of these things got in common? The Liberal Democrats voted against every single part of it. So, I am delighted if Liberal Democrats ask about law and order."

The Prime Minister could have confirmed or denied the accuracy of Mr Stunell's figures. (Incidentally, they have worrying implications for the city which will host Britain's first super casino. Academic comparisons between casino locations worldwide show that success or failure depend on regulation and policing.) He could have said that he could not comment on an ongoing police investigation.

For the record:
- we voted for the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, which incorporated the ASB provisions;
- we value community support officers, though not as replacements for trained police officers;
- we have continuously pressed for more police officers, and would never vote against an increase.

The government, on the other hand, is in effect cutting community support officer posts and civilian support staff, while removing police officers from the street, by cutting its annual support in real terms. For the explanation, see the blog of the Chief Constable of North Wales.

He writes: "Our 2006/07 budget was reduced by £2m. In 2007/08, a further cut of £3m is anticipated. This has required me to reduce staff because about 85% of my budget of £125m goes on people, and any cut inevitably means employing fewer people. In order to cope, I have to reduce both police officer and civilian staff numbers. This just cannot be done without severe impact on frontline services, and upon neighbourhood policing in particular, because we simply cannot stop answering the phone, or refuse to deal with serious crime - but we can do less neighbourhood policing, even though this is clearly contrary to the loudly expressed wishes of the public. A real dilemma."