Gwent PCC Reflects on First Year in Office
Today (Friday 12th May) marks one year exactly since Jeff Cuthbert began his role as the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent. This milestone has provided him with the opportunity to reflect on some of his key achievements to date, some of the challenges ahead and his plans for the future...
"My role as PCC enables residents to have a greater say in how policing services are provided for them and to become actively involved in decision making which relates to their local service provision. Through events, forums and public surgeries my staff and I have visited all of our key partners during the last year which include town and community councils, local authorities, elected officials and local business leaders in the area. Only by listening to people's issues and concerns and by putting the needs of individuals at the heart of what we do, can we seek to provide the best possible quality of life for our citizens.
Delivering a Safer Gwent
After listening to the communities of Gwent, partners and other key stakeholders, I was pleased to launch my Delivering a Safer Gwent Police and Crime Plan 2017 - 2021 in March. This Plan provides the strategic direction for how policing and crime services should be delivered in Gwent over the next four years and is based on the five police and crime priorities which people told me are important to them. The priorities are: Crime Prevention; Supporting Victims; Community Cohesion; Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour; and Effective Service Delivery.
I am delighted to see the emphasis I have put on building partnerships bearing fruit over the last year. The Police cannot be responsible for policing alone and most problems are best solved by the whole community working together. This approach is strongly embedded in the way my office and the Police Service work here in Gwent.
Examples of where we have put positive partnership working into action over the last year include:
- Our coordinated work in the centre of Newport with the Public Service Board to tackle some of the pressing issues raised by the community. The vital community intelligence provided to Gwent Police enabled them to conduct the two stages of Operation Jewels - the largest drugs operation in the history of the Service;
- The Modern Slavery seminar I hosted earlier this year which brought together employers and their suppliers to discuss how we can work even closer with the police and key partners to prevent people from being exploited as modern-day slaves. This is an area we are now driving forward with our partners locally and nationally;
- Our work with our partners on the Safer Gwent group to achieve better outcomes in preventing and reducing crime; taking more effective action to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB); supporting victims and protecting people from serious harm;
- My continued commitment to roll out the Partnership Fund which awards cash seized from criminals and from the sale of unclaimed found property to community projects in Gwent;
- Our innovative work with the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to deploy dedicated mental health specialists to work alongside Gwent Police in its control room. This ensures individuals living with mental health issues receive the right level of support and intervention at first point of contact; and
- The launch of the new Emergency Services Station in Abertillery which sees all three blue light services based under the same roof for the first time in South Wales.
I will continue to maintain and establish strong links between the voluntary and community sector and my office, and develop opportunities and services that meet the emerging needs of our communities.
I am fully aware of the changing nature of crime and one of my priorities is to provide excellent support for all victims of crime with a particular focus on preventing further serious harm. This is why I have specifically employed a Policy Officer to focus on vulnerability with a specific emphasis on high impact crimes such as child sexual exploitation, child abuse and neglect, violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. This research has enabled my office to produce a vulnerability framework with the aim of identifying targeted steps and informing the police and our partners on how to tackle and influence the root causes of vulnerabilities.
Maintaining a Presence
As PCC I am responsible for the police estate in Gwent which includes all of the police stations, land and assets. Despite the reduction in funding to the Police Service over the last six years, I am still committed to working with key partners to ensure that we provide a visible and accessible policing service which adequately responds to local need and provides assurance to the community. After listening to the concerns of residents during my election campaign, I announced my decision to open a new permanent police station in the centre of Caerphilly last year. Renovation work on the new front counter premises is currently underway and we are all set for an official opening this summer.
A Service that Works
I have been positively encouraged by the performance of the Force since taking up office. This is why it was with regret I received the official notice from the Chief Constable, Jeff Farrar, of his intention to retire in June. He has led the turnaround in the Service's performance in recent years and he leaves us in a well-placed position to meet both current and future demands on the service. Under his guidance, the Service has gone from requiring improvement across the board to being one of the top performing Services in England and Wales. The search for Mr Farrar's successor is now underway.
And with a view of providing an improved level of service for the public, I was pleased to launch the new Public Response Unit (PRU) in October last year. The PRU aims to ensure that any dissatisfaction with Gwent Police is dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible before it evolves into a more serious complaint. The unit also encourages members of the public to tell them about good levels of service they have received from the Force.
Fit for the Future
There is no doubt that the budget for policing is one of the single biggest challenges that Gwent and all the other Services in England and Wales still face. How we have improved and evolved as a service in Gwent despite continued reductions in the budget year on year is nothing short of remarkable.
However, as a result of our efficiencies programme, prudent planning and a slight increase in the Precept (the policing element of the council tax), we were able to recruit 160 Police Officers last year and we will see 120 new police officers joining Gwent Police during 2017/18 to bolster the front-line. And whilst policing is not devolved, the Welsh Government plays a key role in terms of community safety and wellbeing by providing funding for 101 Police Community Support Officers (PCSO's) in Gwent.
The world of policing could look very different in four or five years' time and we need to be flexible enough to adapt to those changes. We will have to wait and see what the implications are for policing and wellbeing following the General Election.
I am now looking forward to the next year and my focus will be on ensuring the people of Gwent have the best service possible. You can rest assured that I will continue to work hard on improving policing and in driving forward essential partnerships to keep our communities safe."