Training deal could hit officer numbers
A ROW over how police training is funded could result in 45 fewer officers in North Wales and potential recruits choosing to work in England instead.
That’s the warning from Wales’ police and crime commissioners and chief constables as they call for urgent action over an apprenticeship levy they say is putting Welsh forces at a “huge disadvantage”.
The All-Wales Policing Group has voiced its concerns in a letter to Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government.
The group’s chair, North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, says the four Welsh forces are paying a total of £2m and he fears they’ll get nothing in return.
The UK Government has agreed a funding deal for the levy for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in which each devolved government will receive a share of money paid in based on their population.
In England the money forces pay into the levy goes to the English police college. But in Wales it goes to the Welsh Government, which is due to get back a total of almost £400m over the next three years.
But Mr Jones says that because the Welsh Government is not responsible for policing there’s a big question mark over whether any of the money paid in by Welsh police forces can be spent on officer training.
He said: “We are most concerned that the uncertainty that exists in Wales will create a situation where English forces are more attractive to potential recruits than Welsh forces. Ultimately, this will be to the detriment of Welsh communities.
“Welsh police forces are now at a serious financial disadvantage and in future will be disadvantage in terms of training compared to our English counterparts. Under the English funding model, 92% of the costs of training would be met through the apprenticeship levy, with only 8% being borne directly by the forces. In con- trast, the funding arrangements in Wales mean forces here would have to bear between 95 and 100% of the costs themselves.
“Under such pressures, Welsh forces might have to lower the standard of training and it would be regrettable to break away from the uniform standards that are currently in place.
“Being forced to fund the training from existing resources would inevitably have an impact on frontline policing.”
He added: “We are seeking an urgent resolution to this issue because an unfunded cost of nearly £10m of the Police Education Qualifications Framework is equivalent to 200 fewer officers in Wales – this equates to 86 officers in South Wales, 45 in North Wales, 35 in Dyfed Powys and 34 in Gwent.
“This will be in addition to the reductions that Welsh forces have already suffered since 2010, which has seen a reduction of over 2,500 police officers and staff, equivalent to the entire resources of North Wales Police.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “All police forces pay the apprenticeship levy, and in Wales those funds are passed back to the Welsh Government through an arrangement agreed with HM Treasury.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The Communities Secretary, the Finance Secretary and the Skills Minister have jointly written to the Home Secretary about the impact of the Policing Education and Qualification Framework. While we are supportive of the PEGF in principle, we have been clear that responsibility for operational policing matters, including training, rests solely with the Home Office and it should fund training until policing is devolved.
“The apprenticeship levy is a UK Government employment tax which directly conflicts with areas of devolved responsibility. The levy is being imposed on Wales at considerable cost.
“It is important to remember this levy is being collected at a time when the UK Government has cut Wales’ funding by £1.2bn in real terms since 2010-11.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones says North Wales could miss out under a police training funding scheme