Cash crisis a serious threat to South Wales force

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The Independent Online
SERIOUS underfunding of the South Wales police force is putting its efficiency and effectiveness under threat, a report warned yesterday, writes Jason Bennetto.

The force was passing from one financial crisis to the next, the Inspectorate of Constabulary said. There was a freeze on staff recruitment and promotions at the time of its inspection in February. Training in equal opportunities had been cancelled and the amount spent on the force's 606-vehicle fleet was about half what it should be.

Robert Lawrence, the Chief Constable of South Wales, had sought pounds 148m for 1994-95 - 'a reasonable requirement' the inspectors said - but the Police Authority was only granting pounds 133.4m.

The inspectors said underfunding was serious and 'the acceleration of restrictions' on services was 'a real cause for concern'.

Attempts to cut costs in the force, which has about 3,150 officers, have included job cuts, closed stations and reduced overtime.

A spokesman for the police authority said its hands were tied by financial constraints put on local authorities by central government.

The force budget is met from the coffers of three local authorities - Mid, South and West Glamorgan - out of money allocated for the purpose by both the Welsh Office and the Home Office.

The Home Office blamed the local authorities for refusing to spend all the money allocated. A spokeswoman said: 'We have given them sufficient money, it's just not being spent on policing - they have spent some of it on other public services.'

Allan Parry-Jones, chairman of South Wales branch of the Police Federation, which represents rank- and-file officers, said it was 'policing on a shoestring' and it would end in disaster for law and order.