Wales counts the cost of a welcome for its Prince

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE PRINCE of Wales will receive a reluctant welcome today when he visits Cardiff today in his role as Chancellor of the University of Wales. South Wales constabulary wants an end to royal visits because they are too expensive to cover.

Faced with having to trim between pounds 2m and pounds 4m from its pounds 131m budget, the force wants all royal trips postponed.

The visits require large numbers of officers and lead to substantial overtime bills. Security costs have risen because the Prince and Princess make individual trips to Wales now that they are separated. Even a two-hour trip can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

An emergency police authority meeting yesterday agreed that the Lords Lieutenant of South, Mid and West Glamorgan - the Queen's local representatives - should be told that royal tours might face cancellation.

The force is considering other options including an overtime ban, the temporary closure of 20 police stations and making 180 officers redundant. Cardiff's busy Central Station would be left with 13 officers instead of 40. At times only one police dog handler would be available across three counties and in a major incident South Wales would have to call on neighbouring forces for help.

Robert Lawrence, the chief constable, said: 'There is no way I want to go down this path. But if I am forced to make cuts of this level then these are the measures I may have to take.'

Russell Goodway, leader of Labour-controlled South Glamorgan County Council, said: 'Royal visits are important in the life of the community but we have to take professional advice from the chief constable that policing these visits is costly at a time when we are in a severe cash crisis.' Terry Mahoney, Mid Glamorgan County Council leader, added: 'It is a question of priorities and protecting public services. We must examine every way of saving money.'

Buckingham Palace said the Royal Family would still like to visit Wales but would listen to its Welsh representatives and the Government.