A Progressive Commissioner for North Wales

My first priority is to stand up for our communities against the Tory/Lib-Dem 20% cuts to policing, which are undermining the ability of the police to respond to issues and to engage with our communities.

Until six months ago I was Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority. I saw firsthand the damage the government in Westminster is doing to policing. This new post of Commissioner requires someone with integrity who will build a consensus on the way forward and work with local people, the police and elected representatives across politics – which is what I have been doing in various non-political roles.

I am proud to have the support of the Labour Party – a party that believes that we can achieve more by working together than we can on our own and which by investing in community policing secured a drop in crime of over 40%.

I want to put victims and witnesses at the heart of policing and the criminal justice system: I want them to be supported and the most vulnerable prioritised. I want them to be kept informed and to have an effective voice in the system. What most people who become a victim want is action to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We need the police to prevent crime and reduce reoffending. The best organisations learn from their mistakes. I want the police to be open and honest with people when they get things wrong and to put things right.

If elected, I’ll be out and about talking to local people and local police officers in the communities which suffer most from crime and making sure that they are working together to solve problems.

As Commissioner I will:

1) Visit the top 100 hot spots bringing together police and local people to focus on cutting crime and anti-social behaviour

My focus will be to actively engage with communities and build bridges between local communities and the police. I will regularly attend public meetings in each of the six counties and also arrange “walkabouts” with elected representatives, local police officers and PCSOs, prioritising the top 100 hot spots each year to ensure a clear focus on engaging with the communities most affected by crime.

I will maintain the current commitment to providing services through both English and Welsh as required by our citizens – language choice is key to engagement.

2) Ensure the focus is on victims who most need help and when people are let down, the police apologise and action is taken to prevent reoccurrence

I will set priorities based on consultation and hold the Chief Constable to account, ensuring public consultation on important issues. Organisations which welcome complaints and admit it when they get things wrong are much more able to improve. We need to set high standards and if people fail to live up to them, they need to go.

3) Improve efficiency by working with the workforce and with other agencies, in particular to tackle causes of crime and stop reoffending

We need to work with other agencies to ensure that the criminal justice system as a whole is effective and efficient. In Wales, we need Commissioners who will work with the Welsh Government and with local authorities to deliver a joined-up Welsh approach. But in North Wales we also need to work closely with the North West of England, recognising that transport is mainly East-West not North-South.

Although I know most people in North Wales oppose the scale of the cuts to policing, they will also expect me as Commissioner to work with the Chief Constable and his team to ensure that the money that we have is used as effectively as possible. I will use my extensive experience of improvement planning to ensure we get the best possible services for the money available. My experience has shown that you do this by involving the workforce – the people involved in the system know how to make it work better and need to be encouraged to share their ideas for improvement.

4) Provide comprehensive information on my work and consult widely

I will work full-time as PCC and publish details of all meetings and expenses claimed. I will uphold good governance: be accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follow the rule of law. I will ensure that a wide range of information on Force activities and what I am doing to hold the Force to account is available to the public via the Commissioner’s website. I will regularly involve the Police & Crime Panel in important decisions, not just when I have to and provide information to them on a confidential basis (so long as they are security vetted).

I am the only candidate in North Wales who is campaigning in Welsh, with a bilingual website and bilingual leaflets and talking to voters on the doorstep and in town centres in English and in Welsh. Close to half the population in North Wales is Welsh-speaking and many of our citizens actively prefer to communicate in Welsh. This new role is all about communicating with the public and that is why offering a meaningful language choice is essential – for the Commissioner but also for operational policing. Huge strides have been made in recent years towards a police force which embraces the opportunity to communicate in Welsh as well as English and I want to see that continue. There is a link to my Welsh language website above or click here: www.cymraeg.talmichael.net

5) Fight for fair resources from UK Government

North Wales is a rural area parts of which suffer from urban problems. The amount spent on policing per person is about average, but much more of that funding has to be raised locally. We need a fair deal.

See also what I have to say about dealing with the Government’s privatisation agenda, Living and Breathing Devolution,  Promoting Good Governance, EqualityIntegrity and Closing Public Reception Desks.


17 thoughts on “A Progressive Commissioner for North Wales

  1. Hello Tal. I thoroughly applaud the effort you have made over the last few months in your visibility drive. Hopefully you will not drop off the radar post election.
    That said I shall not be voting for you on 15th November. This has nothing to do with you personally – more the tenuous link that has been forged between policing and politics. I for one strongly believe the two should remain independent; there is potential risk of an insidious alliance.

    • Thanks David – I share your concern. But given that the government refused to put in place adequate checks and balances, the only safeguard is to ensure that whoever is elected will respect that independence – while holding the police to account. The Labour Party are supporting me on the basis that I have demonstrated my ability to do this and I hope that supporters of other parties and none will support me on this basis as well. Simply putting “independent” as your description on the ballot paper doesn’t mean you understand the governance issues and will behave appropriately – and in fact the only declared independent in North Wales hasn’t announced any policies other than slashing police funding…

      If elected I fully intend to actively engage with communities – far from dropping off the radar you can expect to hear more from me!

  2. I’m concerned that the Police Precept charges in the future would increase at a greater than inflation rate, as they did when you where Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority. If you where to be elected what would be your position on such taxation inflicted upon local people?

    • The UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010 set the financial regime for police expenditure across England & Wales. Each Force faced a 20% real terms reduction in its grant over four years. For North Wales Police this meant a £22m cut in central funding. The CSR stated that Police Authorities should look to mitigate these cuts with an increase of council tax in line with the Office of Budget Responsibility’s four year projections. In Wales the Government’s assumption was an average annual increase of 4%.

      I would stick to this – I don’t think it would be appropriate to load more cuts on the police as this level of cuts is already way more than can be achieved without an impact on the service to the public. But I also think it would be wrong to increase council tax more than the OBR projection because Council Tax is an unfair tax which hits the poor much harder than the rich. It should be reformed so that the amount people pay is proportional to the value of their home. But that’s not something a Commissioner can do.

      I will also campaign for fairer funding for North Wales: we currently pay more in council tax than anywhere else outside London and yet the overall funding to the police is average. That’s because the funding formula fails to recognise that we have additional costs due to being a largely rural area, yet also parts of North Wales suffer from the problems associated with urban areas.

      • Thank you for your frank reply. 4% pa increase to my Council Tax precept to help fund the North Wales Police at their current budget level is unaffordable for a pensioner like myself. The force needs to make savings also!

      • I agree that the starting point has to be making the police more efficient – but even with the 4% increase recommended by the Government’s Office of Budget Responsibility, the level of savings required is far greater than can be achieved without an adverse impact on the service to the public

  3. I have to say, your zero tolerance on drugs is misguided, at best. The so called War on Drugs has been a dismal failure. Even Keith Vaz MP, as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Enquiry into drugs has stated that the status quo cannot continue.
    Then we have Gwynedd, as a Plaid Cymru stronghold, with part of Plaid drug policy to decriminalise Cannabis, you would be clearly going against the electorate.
    Even the public now understand the need for a change to the policing of the drug laws.

    Can you tell me what “zero tolerance” actually means? And how you would redirect scarce resources to manage this misguided approach?

    • All good points – but it is not me that has advocated zero tolerance, it is one of the independent candidates and the Tory. I was asked to comment on this on Twitter and my response was:

      “It is a meaningless statement. In theory there is zero tolerance of drugs in prisons and yet they appear to be rife. What is needed is a focus on organised criminal gangs and helping addicts to get off drugs, not filling cells with addicts.”

      That doesn’t mean drug addiction (or alcohol abuse) excuses criminal behaviour: it doesn’t. But if we want to reduce re-offending, we do need to tackle underlying causes of criminality which means providing such offenders with help and support to kick the habit and turn their lives around.

  4. Thank you for your reply. I would like to apologise for that mistake I made, I thought I had seen you mention a similar approach.
    I agree with you in that harm associated to consumption of any drug needs to be dealt with, but that there surely must be recognition that there are a class of people that consume in a responsible and appropriate manner, including the ‘illicit’ classes of drugs. I am particularly thinking of Cannabis, if I am to be honest about it.

    Mark Polin has made his position very clear. When it comes to large scale production, I happen to agree with him, but when it comes to an individual that is causing no social harm, I do not.

    What, if you don’t mind me asking, is your position to Cannabis in particular?

  5. The scientific evidence is that cannabis can be very harmful – see http://www.talktofrank.com/drug/cannabis
    The point about large scale production is right, not least because that tends to be more concentrated forms which is linked to higher risks of dependence or developing mental health problems.
    Bottom line for Commissioners (and Chief Constables) is that the law is determined by parliament; it is for the police to enforce the law as it stands. The focus of enforcement is something where Commissioners can have an influence though, and I want the focus to be on those crimes which cause the most harm. Serious, organised gangs come top of the list for a number of reasons.

  6. With all due respect, Talk to frank is a poor website. I could refer you to the Keele University study, which Gordon Brown initiated. http://repository.keele.ac.uk:8080/intralibrary/open_virtual_file_path/i05n50911t/Frisher3.pdf

    I would also respectfully correct your assertion with regard to your comment “not least because that tends to be more concentrated forms which is linked to higher risks of dependence or developing mental health problems”.
    The fact is there is no stronger concentrated forms of the herbal variety. There are, however, strains which have been bred for higher THC concentration, this is solely a product of prohibition though, as people saw more refined Alcohol during the prohibition in the USA.

    With respect, Chief Constables can and do show discretion with regard to this matter, of note is North Wales last Chief Constable, Richard Brunstrom.
    At the polar opposite is Mark Polin.

    As a father of four young children I am alarmed that the very ‘control’ the Home Office alludes to is none existent, and cannot work. All a person needs at the moment is a £10 pound note, no matter age or mental state. Criminal sanctions will never stop people from using any substance, and people ought not to be criminalised for peaceful and personal use, rather, there ought to be a proper public information drive, as we have seen with tobacco declining in use through good management, rather than criminal sanctions.

  7. I should also like to add that is isn’t the strength that has anything to do with it, as we see with Alcohol, Whisky, for example, is much stronger than Beer, etc….

  8. Actually, after reading the section on Cannabis on the Talktofrank website, I think you would be better of not mentioning it to people again. It is full of none truths and unsubstantiated claims.
    All the evidence is in, huge trials in the UK, USA and most recently in New Zealand confirm it is safe for people aged over 18. [Once the brain is fully developed].

  9. He does indeed, yet he also maintains that it is the Law that is more likely to do more damage than Cannabis itself.
    The fact is it does far less damage than Alcohol or Tobacco, and yet they are legally controlled substances.
    We are talking ‘potential’, Alcohol can and does create far more problems, both on a physical and mental health level.

  10. I could also point out this: http://www.ukdpc.org.uk/publication/a-fresh-approach/

    This is the result of a six year study by professionals that have no particular position, other than to follow the evidence.

    When we have Proceeds of Crime hearings, with the beneficiaries being the Police and the CPS some might argue that this is a conflict of interest, which actively supports the status quo.

    Even Les Iversen states we need a fresh approach. The Keele University study I pointed out found no causal link between Psychosis and Cannabis. The argument is over, all this country is waiting for is the politicians to grow a spine and deal with the problem, instead of leaving it in the hands of the organised criminal element, which you will never, by it’s very nature, eliminate. One cannot get rid of a demand led market.

    I work in Mental Health, I see the damage certain drugs can do and I know what I am talking about.

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