Police Federation says rural policing in north Wales hit by shake-up

Concerns are being expressed over the number of police covering rural areas in north Wales.

The Police Federation, which represents officers, says some areas "aren't getting as much policing as they'd expect".

Councillors in Pwllheli and Tywyn, Gwynedd, say they are also worried following last year's police shake-up.

North Wales Police said it was holding an internal review of the changes and will make an announcement next week.

The force cut several senior officer posts and merged its three divisions into one as part of the reorganisation, which was brought in last May in a bid to save £15m in less than four years.

The changes also meant that emergency response officers started reporting to just nine key police stations - called hubs - at Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay, Corwen, Dolgellau, Llangefni, Mold, Porthmadog, St Asaph and Wrexham.

Richard Eccles, secretary of the north Wales branch of the Police Federation, said: "It's a sensitive issue to pick out individual towns or villages, but there are clearly areas which are not getting as much policing as perhaps they would expect.

"Certainly, I have looked after officers who have found that they're being overwhelmed by the amount of work that they're having to do, either as a member of a very small team, or perhaps an individual.

"The problem has been more in the rural areas than the urban areas.

"Where there's a large geographical area, you still need to have policing in there, and you still need to have support for the officers.

"It's in the fine tuning. I don't think this system has been a complete and utter disaster - it's all got to be done within a set budget. We just need to keep moving forward."

'Badly hit'

Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd in north-west Wales, told BBC Wales about his concerns.

"In the area that I represent, 18-20 miles is nothing along the rural road, it takes a long, long time to travel," he said.

"And so this hub idea may be good on the A55, [but] it's not much use out in rural areas. And I know for a fact that there have been several weekends over the past few months where there have only been two or three police officers on duty for the whole of the old county of Meirionnydd."

Town councillors in Tywyn and Pwllheli say they are unhappy with the service they receive from North Wales Police.

Henry Jones, a member of Tywyn Town Council, and a retired superintendent with Dyfed Powys Police, said: "It's very difficult to run a force with a curtailment of finances.

"But there again, they owe a service to our community, and I do think that Tywyn has been hit particularly badly as far as resources are concerned."

He said the response from Dolgellau, the nearest hub, has been "wanting on occasions".

Mr Jones added: "The system in principle is good, but I believe that they have not put the resources in Dolgellau to provide adequate cover for this area."

Pwllheli mayor Mike Parry said the town council had written to Chief Constable Mark Polin about its concerns about a lack in police presence in the town.

Dr Colin Rogers, reader at the University of Glamorgan's police sciences department which researches different aspects of policing, said he thought North Wales Police had developed a "sensible model" given the pressures on its budget.

He told BBC Wales: "I think what we will see is forces across the country having to go down this route.

Police stations

"It is about providing a level of service in a very difficult economic framework and I think we will see, as time goes on, more forces using centralised administration systems in an effort to do that."

He said it was debatable how much longer smaller police stations would remain economically sustainable.

North Wales Police are currently holding an internal review of the new system.

The chief constable is meeting senior colleagues over the next few days to discuss what changes need to be made.

The force says it will make an announcement next week.

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