This article appeared in Local View and the Rhymney Valley Express.
A few weeks ago, Gwent Police announced that from July there would only be one 24 hour police station in the whole of the Gwent Police Authority area – Newport Central. That would mean if police stations were maintained anywhere else, they would not have a ‘public counter’.
This was announced without any consultation whatsoever with the Police Authority, with elected representatives or, most importantly, with members of the public.
Everyone realises that Gwent Police, like every other police force in the country, have to make huge cuts. Thanks to central government cuts, Gwent Police are having their budget reduced by a massive 20%. But it is, in my view, essential that spending reductions are made after full consultation. The cuts to the police stations were announced in March without any consultation at all.
Along with my other Gwent Labour MPs and AMs, I made it clear that this was totally unacceptable. After considerable pressure, the Chief Constable of Gwent agreed to ‘consult’ with her Police Authority and MPs and AMs. She is also given a commitment to listen to what members of the public have to say. We will have to see if Gwent Police do in fact make any changes to the plans which they announced in March.
In these difficult times, I consider it essential that two things are maintained. Firstly, it is vital that front-line policing is kept in place, and secondly, neighbourhood policing and links with local communities must not suffer. That’s why police stations are important. For our senior citizens it is especially important for there to be access to a friendly and supportive person at the local police station. As things stand, the whole of the Rhymney Valley – that is Caerphilly, Bedwas, Ystrad Mynach, Bargoed and Rhymney – would lose the current level of public service which they have. In fact, all these stations, if not closed entirely, would become police ‘bunkers’ which have permanently closed doors. For me this is totally unacceptable and it is my intention to oppose this plan as strongly as I am able.