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Chopper service not ‘delivering’ for Dyfed-Powys

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police copterIN THE FIRST month of the new police helicopter provision alone, there were three incidents when air support was not available according to data unearthed by Plaid Cymru.

In early January, following the retirement of the police helicopter, Dyfed-Powys Police made fourteen requests for air support. Two of these resulted in a helicopter responding and on three occasions there was no response for what was described as ‘other reasons’ by a recent media release from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office. However, Plaid Cymru launched a blistering attack on Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon, after their Freedom of Information request showed that the requests for air support were refused due to no assets being available, insufficient flying time to be able to attend and due to NPAS already being committed in Gwent.

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office released the combined figures for January and February, meaning that it is impossible to analyse how many requests were cancelled due to bad weather, or the incident being resolved by officers on the ground. A Plaid Cymru source told The Herald that while no information concerning response times had been provided, it was likely that a proportion of incidents had been resolved on the ground because it had taken ‘much longer’ for air support to be despatched. Reference was also made in the Police and Crime Commissioner’s statement to a ‘counter-terrorism exercise in Milford Haven’ as one of the incidents where the NPAS helicopter attended.

The only comparable incident mentioned in January/February was a preplanned combined-forces training exercise at the Port of Pembroke on January 7. If this was the exercise referred to, it would mean that an NPAS helicopter attended one out of thirteen unscheduled incidents. Last year the Police and Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, signed up the local police force to a centralised National Police Air Service (NPAS) – a move which saw the dedicated helicopter for Dyfed-Powys scrapped on January 1 this year. Commissioner Salmon had justified his support for a centralised service as a way to save money and to have more resources available to the force.

He hailed the benefits of a 24-hour service despite Dyfed-Powys only needing helicopter support ‘after hours’ just 13 times in four years – a point raised by local MP Jonathan Edwards in a Westminster Hall debate. Mr Salmon recently reiterated the benefits of the 24-hour service, stating that: “Air cover is there 24 hours every day of the year where previously we had just 12 hours a day.” However, in January, the NPAS helicopter responded to one out of six requests for assistance made between 8pm and 8am. The former Principal Crime and Intelligence Analyst for Dyfed Powys Police and Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Police Commissioner in May’s election, Dafydd Llywelyn, launched a ruthless attack on Commissioner Salmon. He said the concerns raised by Plaid Cymru during the campaign led by Jonathan Edwards MP have been realised within weeks of our dedicated helicopter being scrapped.

Dafydd Llywelyn said: “Let’s be under no illusion – this revelation is damning. With the current air support service hailed by Police Commissioner Salmon, Dyfed-Powys force and the residents it serves are receiving a worse service than the one we had before he took office. “As Plaid Cymru warned throughout last year, our force and our communities are playing second-fiddle to the needs of more urban Wales. Now we have confirmation that resources have been refused to our force because they are either busy elsewhere or because it would take too long to get to us. “In its first month 86% of requests for air support were not honoured. 83% of requests for air support after 8pm were not honoured. Christopher Salmon staked his reputation on a 24-hour service which we now know hardly exists. “We’re being told that some air support has been stood down because officers on the ground have resolved the situation. This suggests response times are increasing significantly. I’m also being told that front line officers know that air support is now less likely to be available and are not minded to put in requests.

That is deeply worrying indeed. “The information speaks for itself. By selling-off our dedicated helicopter and failing to oppose the centralisation agenda of his Conservative party colleagues, Christopher Salmon has failed the people of Dyfed-Powys and their police force.” Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards led the campaign to helicopter. Last week he received a Grassroots Diplomat Award nomination for his campaign. Commenting on the lack of air support he said: “When it comes to police air support there is no joy whatsoever in being proved right. Every concern I raised in Parliament regarding resources not being available has been realised within the first four weeks of the service. “For the Police Commissioner to issue a press statement last week claiming the air service was ‘delivering’ is an absolute disgrace. It was nothing more than an attempt to mask the abject failure and damning results of his party’s centralisation agenda. He should make a public apology for his disingenuous statement.

“Christopher Salmon has presided over a catalogue of failures. If Dyfed Powys residents want a Police Commissioner that is going to stand up for their services they need to elect Dafydd Llywelyn on May 5.” Current Commissioner Christopher Salmon has already agreed to sell-off the Dyfed-Powys helicopter. Plaid Cymru officials say they have since submitted a further request for information on police air support throughout the month of February, and will continue to seek information for every month in order to expose the record of failure of the new service agreed by Christopher Salmon. Last week, following the release of the January/February figures, Mr Salmon said: “In January last year our own helicopter was out of action 10 days for maintenance. Other than during bad weather, as was the case with the previous service, I’m pleased that figures show the new arrangement is meeting our needs so far. “I am keeping a close eye on it to ensure that it delivers what we need. “It costs us £275,000 less too, with further savings of £75,000 from April this year.

I am determined to put that towards frontline officers to keep people safe.” Data for January 2015 shows that out of 24 requests for air assistance, 10 were attended. However, given that the Dyfed- Powys helicopter was out of action for 10 days for repairs, it is unclear which forces responded to the calls. The Herald asked Mr Salmon whether, given that over a comparative period only two calls were attended, whether the service was ‘meeting the needs’ of Dyfed-Powys residents. In his response, Mr Salmon prioritised the savings made possible by the new arrangement: “We now have 24-hour helicopter coverage for £275,000 less,” he said. “That money has helped me put more officers on our rural beats for more hours of every day. “Crime and antisocial behaviour have fallen further and faster in Dyfed-Powys than anywhere else in Wales. “Our rural areas are safer than ever.

“At two months old, this air service is still new. It is too early to say definitively how NPAS is performing but so far it appears to be meeting our needs. The Chief Constable and I will keep a very close eye on it to make sure it does.” The difference between the two statements, issued a week apart, is notable. In the first, Mr Salmon claimed the figures showed that ‘the new arrangement is meeting our needs so far.’ In the second, the Police and Crime Commissioner backtracked somewhat, claiming that it was ‘too early to say’ how the service was performing, but it ‘appears’ to be meeting the needs of Dyfed- Powys. As Mr Salmon belatedly said, a full analysis of the efficacy of the NPAS provision will take more than two months to develop. What is certain, however, is that the service will be u nder close scrutiny from all directions, especially with the approach of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

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Further delay to Universal Credit in Ceredigion

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BEN LAKE MP for Ceredigion has expressed his concerns following a recent announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that the roll-out of the government’s controversial benefit payment, Universal Credit, will be fully rolled-out across Ceredigion in December 2018.

The payment, which is set to replace longstanding benefits such as Income Support, ESA and Working Tax Credits, had initially been set to become active in Ceredigion in September 2018, however recent documentation shows the date has now been moved back to December 2018.

Ben Lake MP has expressed his concern that a roll-out in December 2018 will hit families and vulnerable people at the most difficult time of year.

Ben Lake MP said: “I welcome the news that the UK Government have decided to delay the roll-out of Universal Credit in Ceredigion, I hope that this will allow the Government an opportunity to address and resolve many of the well-publicised issues associated with the payment. There have already been significant problems with the roll-out of the new regime in other areas, however, the proposed timing of December for its roll-out in Ceredigion is particularly problematic.

“With the Christmas celebrations, cold weather, and lengthy holiday periods, December can often be a difficult month financially for many families and individuals. I have significant concerns therefore that the full introduction of Universal Credit in Ceredigion will not only see claimants put under additional financial strain, but that it will coincide with a period when many of the support services available will be disrupted due to the festive holidays.”

“I have since written to the Department of Work and Pensions expressing such concerns.”

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Share experiences of sexual harassment to help police

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PEOPLE who have been subject to sexual harassment are encouraged to share their experiences to help understand the scale of the problem in communities across Wales.

Dyfed-Powys Police is taking part in a country-wide campaign, which urges anyone who has been subject to sexual harassment to say when and where the incident took place, as well as how it made them feel, anonymously through an online survey.

The results will be used to challenge and change the culture of misogyny and sexual harassment, so people can feel safe to live their lives without fear of harassment.

Dyfed-Powys Police Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Sexual harassment is simply unacceptable – it doesn’t matter who it comes from or where it happens, it should not be tolerated by anyone in society.

“We are committed to making sure everybody feels safe in their community, and has the freedom to make life choices without fear of sexual harassment. We want people to be able to access every area of society with confidence, from sports facilities and workplaces, to public transport or pubs and clubs.

“By taking part in this survey, you will help us to understand the scale of the problem in communities across Dyfed-Powys Police, which will enable us to listen to those affected by sexual harassment and to make a real difference in the future.”

To take part in the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SWPCOM

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Proposed salmon byelaws to be postponed until 2019

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NEW fishing byelaws have been proposed which will make it mandatory for fishermen to release all salmon caught in Welsh rivers.

The procedures for introducing new byelaws are protracted and Natural Resources Wales wishes to avoid uncertainty for fishermen by delaying implementation of approved new measures until the 2019 fishing season.

The proposed all Wales byelaws, which include restrictions on fishing methods to help the survival of released fish and reduced net fishing seasons, are currently being considered by Welsh Government.

Dave Mee, Senior Fisheries Advisor for NRW, said: “At the moment timescales for a decision are uncertain, so we are proposing that introduction of any new measures should be postponed until the beginning of the 2019 rod and net seasons.

“We hope this will help clarify the situation for anglers, netsmen, fishery owners and clubs and associations.”

Welsh salmon stocks remain in a perilous condition. Although the mandatory catch and release proposals have proved unpopular with anglers, NRW firmly believes that they, along with other measures such as tackling agricultural pollution, improving water quality and managing the potential threats from predators are vital for the future survival of these iconic fish.

Peter Gough, Principal Fisheries Advisor for NRW added: “This delay is a pragmatic solution to resolving current uncertainty.

“However, it is important to note that this does not mean there will be further debate on the subject as NRW has concluded its position and the case for further controls has been made and presented to Welsh Government and it remains unchanged.

“Protection of the breeding resources of these wonderful fish is a fundamental part of our work to manage this important natural resource sustainably.”

This season, fishermen are again being asked by NRW to practice full restraint and ensure conservation of fish stocks by voluntarily releasing all the salmon they catch in 2018.

Dave explained: “Our salmon stocks are in serious trouble and have fallen to historically low levels and the same is true of about half of our sea trout stocks.

“Neither species can sustain uncontrolled killing of fish and so we are again asking all anglers to release all of their salmon.

“Most anglers are already voluntarily releasing the fish they catch, but some are not. We feel the situation is now so serious for salmon that we must ask all anglers to help preserve as many fish as possible by returning all their salmon.

“It’s also very important to take great care of returned fish. Fishing methods and tackle should be used that ensure fish have a high probability of survival, they should always be kept in the water while unhooking to ensure they can swim away strongly.”

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