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Devolution of policing ‘could protect force budgets’

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Jonathan Edwards MP: Remove policing from ‘simplistic one-size-fits-all system’

Jonathan Edwards MP: Remove policing from ‘simplistic one-size-fits-all system’

THE POLICING budget for Dyfed-Powys could benefit to the tune of £13.5m if policing was devolved, according to a Plaid Cymru MP.

The claim was made by Jonathan Edwards MP, who has raised concern ahead of the Home Office’s new policing budget formula consultation.

A policing grant consultation, launched by the then Home Secretary Theresa May, was abandoned earlier this year after Policing Minister Mike Penning admitted there had been a ‘statistical error’ on which several Police and Crime Commissioners threatened legal action.

Mr Edwards said that last year’s formula would have resulted in a £32 million cut to Welsh forces – £7.9m of which would have been cut from Dyfed-Powys constabulary – a staggering 16% of the force budget.

New policing minister Brandon Lewis MP has recently announced a new review of the Police Core Grant Distribution Formula, which prompted Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn to host a summit for all elected members in the force area.

Mr Llyweyln is set to meet directly with the minister next month, but is urging politicians from all parties to support a fair funding formula that adequately reflects challenges faced by the force.

Figures provided to Jonathan Edwards show a formula which better reflects population statistics would result in an additional £25 million for Welsh forces – £13.5 million in the case of Dyfed-Powys – a figure the Plaid MP says strengthens the case for devolving policing.

Mr Edwards said: “The 43 police forces of Wales and England often have different needs and challenges. Policing is a field for which sophistication and complexity is needed in its funding formula to properly account for the relative needs of each force.

“The review last year sought to place greater emphasis on socio-economic data and more general crime figures. Such a formula doesn’t properly consider the workload differences of each constabulary and would have resulted in a £32 million cut to Welsh forces, with almost £8 million cut from our local force.

“Figures provided to me by Dyfed- Powys Police indicate that funding our forces in line with population would result in an additional £25 million for the four forces in Wales. This is particularly important when we consider that policing is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland. for whom the new formula would not apply.

“If policing was devolved to Wales, a position supported by all Police and Crime Commissioners, the overall Barnett formula for funding public services would indeed be based on our population. It is only be retaining policing control in Westminster that Welsh forces face these significant cuts.”

“Dyfed-Powys Police has already dealt with a £13 million cut from the Tory Home Office. One of the results of those cuts was the loss of our dedicated police helicopter. If further cuts come as a result of an inappropriate funding formula, what services will have to go next? With a formula taking proper account of population, Dyfed-Powys would actually receive an additional £13 million.

“Plaid Cymru will be actively working to lobby the policing minister to implement a formula that does not disadvantage the four Welsh forces, but the case for the devolution of policing to the National Assembly grows by the day and has never been stronger.

“It seems the best way to protect our policing system is to remove it from the simplistic one-size-fits-all approach at Westminster and operate a system that is developed in Wales and works for Wales.”

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Ben Lake MP “disappointed” after Agriculture Bill amendment on the standard of food and agricultural imports is rejected by House of Commons

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The UK’s new Agriculture Bill was put before MPs on Wednesday (13 May) for the final time as it reached the Report Stage and Third Reading.

Alongside farming unions and campaign groups, Ben Lake MP has lobbied for the Bill to include a number of important amendments. One of the amendments sought to introduce a legal requirement that agricultural or food products imported into the UK under future trade agreements would need to be produced or processed according to equivalent animal health, welfare and environmental standards as those required of UK prodcuers.

This amendment, in the form of New Clause 2, and which was tabled by the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Neil Parish MP, was rejected by the Commons. All Plaid Cymru MPs supported the amendment and Ben Lake MP said he was “disappointed” that the house did not vote in favour of an amendment to prevent the importation of products produced to lower animal health and environmental standards, and which in turn would have supported the high standards of Welsh produce.

Ben Lake MP said:

“Without this amendment there remains no legal requirement for future UK trade agreements to ensure that any agricultural or food imports are produced to the same standards as those required of domestic producers.

“Farmers in Wales strive to produce quality food in a sustainable manner, but the failure to include this amendment to the Agriculture Bill risks undermining these efforts by keeping the door open to imports produced to lower environmental and animal welfare standards.

“I have always argued that in order to protect our own high standards it is crucial that a level playing-field is maintained in relation to imports, and that farmers in Wales are not put at a disadvantage by having to compete with imports that are produced to lower standards. I sincerely hope that this amendment will be adopted by the House of Lords, so that the House of Commons has another opportunity to support it.”

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£1 billion deal for ‘Shared Rural Network’ to improve mobile coverage goes ahead

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Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake says he is delighted that a scheme to extend mobile coverage in hard-to-reach rural areas making poor mobile phone coverage a thing of the past has been given the green light, thanks to a major new deal between the Government and UK mobile network operators.

The ‘Shared Rural Network’ will mean that high quality 4G coverage will be available for 95 percent of the UK by 2026 which means consumers will get good 4G signal wherever they live, work or travel. The new plans involves four operators (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) joining forces to create a new organisation to deliver the ‘Shared Rural Network’. Each will be able to make the maximum use out of existing and new phone masts by being able to host their own equipment on them allowing their customers to access a mobile signal. The scheme will cost more than £1billion made up of £530m from the mobile operators and a £500m investment from the Government.

Ben Lake MP, who was one of 78 cross-party MPs who wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport last year to ask for government support for the scheme, said:

“This is really good news for my constituents. Better mobile connectivity will make flexible working, access to education and leisure opportunities easier. It will boost regional economic growth and begin to close the digital divide that exists across the country. The mobile has become an essential tool for most of us. It will certainly come as a relief to many people living in my constituency who are frustrated by the persistent ‘not spots’ which prevent them from carrying out many tasks which other people take for granted”.

The ’Shared Rural Network’ will eliminate the substantial majority of the country’s partial not-spots with the added benefit of increasing competition for mobile services, especially in rural areas; deliver on the Government’s 95% coverage manifesto commitment to extend coverage across the country; improve road coverage by reaching a further 16,000 kilometres of roads; involve minimum environmental impact and reduce the need for duplicate infrastructure and ensure that the UK has one of, if not the best, mobile coverage in Europe.

The initiative, which is a world first, follows government proposals for an overhaul of planning rules and is part of the Prime Minister’s plan to level up the country with world-class digital infrastructure across the UK to make sure homes and businesses are better connected.

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Elin Jones welcomes speed reduction, but says it should be even lower

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Following a meeting and correspondence with the Welsh Government, Elin Jones AM has welcomed the confirmation of an initial reduction in the speed on the A487 between Bow Street and Aberystwyth.

This stretch of the A487 is particularly dangerous, and there were two fatal accidents there last year.

Ken Skates, the Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport, confirmed to Elin Jones via letter that the route between Waun Fawr to 300m beyond Dorglwyd Junction will be reduced to 50mph, with work taking place in the next financial year.

The reduction to 50mph has been initially welcomed by Elin Jones, however she has called for the speed limit to be reduced further to 40mph.

Elin Jones said:

“The need for a review of the safety on the A487 is clear, particularly following the two tragic accidents that took place last year. I was pleased to be able to discuss the issue directly with the Welsh Government Minister in Bow Street recently, and for him to see for himself why a speed reduction was needed.

“I’m also pleased that this has resulted in the safety and speed limit review concluding that a reduction was necessary.

“However, I and many constituents who regularly use this route feel that the speed limit could be reduced further to 40mph, which I will raise again with the Minister.

“I will also continue to call for upgrading safety at the Dorglwyd junction. There are also many areas on the A487 where safety can be improved, either with a speed limit reduction, or by providing cycle lanes and footpaths to remove pedestrians and cyclists from danger. I have called on the Welsh Government to consider all options.”

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