24th February 2018
There has been much debate on the devolution of policing in Wales over recent years. Whether devolution occurs or not, perhaps it is time for a single police service in Wales – The Police Service of Wales. However, the Police Service is not the only emergency service that should consider amalgamation, the Fire and Rescue Service may also benefit from an amalgamation, a decision the Welsh Ambulance Service National Health Service (NHS) Trust has already taken.
The United Kingdom (UK) Government has asked the current Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), where appropriate, to put forward a case that would allow them to oversee both the Police Service and the Fire and Rescue Service in their areas. I propose that this should be taken several steps further and the Commissioner should also oversee the Ambulance Service and have certain responsibilities in relation to community safety within Unitary Authorities and Regional Health Boards.
A change of name that reflects the scope of the new role of the Commissioner would be necessary. Thus, the new Community Safety Commissioner would oversee the Police, Ambulance, and Fire and Rescue Services, and Community Safety Services within Unitary Authorities and Regional Health Boards, with local services being coordinated by local Community Safety Partnerships.
The population of Wales is currently about 3.09 million, which is comparable with areas such as the West Midlands (2.81 million) and Greater Manchester (2.73 million), who both have one PCC or in the case of Greater Manchester, the Mayor acts as the PCC. Wales currently has four PCC, four Chief Constables (Police Officers), three Chief Fire and Rescue Officers and one Chief Ambulance Officer.
Therefore, this proposal advocates one Community Safety Commissioner for Wales assisted by one Deputy Community Safety Commissioner and four Assistant Community Safety Commissioners. The Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and four Assistant Commissioners should not have any political affiliation or have held any political office in the UK and should not have previously served as a Police, Ambulance or Fire and Rescue Officer at any rank or as a senior member of the support staff for those organisations for the past 15 years.
Similarly, there should be only one Chief Police Officer, one Chief Ambulance Officer and one Chief Fire and Rescue Officer, each assisted by one Deputy Chief Officer and four Assistant Chief Officers.
The Community Safety Commissioner, the Chief Police, Ambulance, and Fire and Rescue Service Officers, their four deputies, support staff and resources, should be based in a single Community Safety Headquarters at a central location in Wales, for example Newtown.
The four Assistant Community Safety Commissioners, Assistant Chief Police, Ambulance, and Fire and Rescue Service Officers, should be supported by Deputy Assistant Community Safety Commissioners, Senior Chief Superintendents (Police), Senior Sector Heads of Service Delivery and Engagement (Ambulance) and Senior Group Managers (Fire and Rescue). They and their support staff, and resources, should be based in four Regional Community Safety Headquarters (Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western). For example, a centrally based Northern Regional Community Safety Headquarters would accommodate the Northern Assistant Community Safety Commissioner, the Northern Assistant Chief Police Officer, the Northern Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer, and the Northern Assistant Chief Fire and Rescue Service Officer, their deputies and their support staff.
Each Region should also be coterminous with a new Regional Health Board area. Thus, there should be four Regional Health Boards in Wales; the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Health Boards. The Chair of a Regional Health Board would be of equal status to the Assistant Chief Officers of the Police, Ambulance, and Fire and Rescue Services, and overseen by the Chair of the Public Health Wales NHS Trust.
Each of the four Regions would be divided in to three Basic Command Units (BCUs) for the delivery of services. Thus, there would be 12 BCUs in Wales, each commanded by a Chief Superintendent (Police), Sector Head of Service Delivery and Engagement (Ambulance) and Group Manager (Fire and Rescue). The three BCU Commanders for each BCU and their support staff and resources, should be based in a centrally located BCU Community Safety Headquarters.
Each BCU should be coterminous with a new Unitary Authority and each Unitary Authority should have a Community Safety Partnership (CSP), chaired by a Community Safety Manager, who would be responsible to the Regional Assistant Community Safety Commissioner, be of equal status to the BCU Commanders and based in the BCU Community Safety Headquarters. The composition of the new Unitary Authorities and BCUs should be as follows:
Northern 1: Gwynedd and Isle of Anglesey
Northern 2: Conwy and Denbighshire
Northern 3: Flintshire and Wrexham
Southern 1: Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil
Southern 2: Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan
Southern 3: Cardiff
Western 1: Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire
Western 2: Carmarthenshire
Western 3: Swansea
Eastern 1: Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Monmouthshire
Eastern 2: Newport
Eastern 3: Powys
Other criminal justice organisations in Wales should also be aligned to this Regional/BCU structure to provide for greater efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.
A totally independent and elected Community Safety Commissioner would provide greater accountability and impartiality outside the boundaries of political or organisational allegiances. There would also be efficiency savings in relation to the centralisation of resources, both human and physical. For example, one centralised Human Resources (HR) Department for all three emergency services and Commissioner staff, and four regional communications centres incorporating all emergency services communication staff. All new capital building projects should incorporate facilities for all three emergency services, with tri-service satellite offices at appropriate locations within communities.
This proposal should not be confined to Wales, as it could be replicated on a regional basis throughout England.
Dr Garry Thomas, TSF
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