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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 14:01 GMT
Council tax rise for more police
UK Home Secretary David Blunkett with police
More police are wanted than David Blunkett pledged
Weekly taxes in north Wales could rise by 5p after plans to recruit more police officers were given the green light.

The North Wales Police authority has approved proposals from its most senior officer to put extra bobbies on the beat, using council tax increases.

Eighteen officers will join 56 already set to join the force in 2002 under a 22p weekly increase approved by the Home Office earlier.

But Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom had requested another 38 officers in a big addition to the government's extra manpower allocation.

North Wales Police
1,500 officers employed
1,200 beat constables
57 officers retiring in 2002
104 promised over three years
93 more requested
18 officers granted
37p Band D tax
Force covers six counties
That plan - which would have meant a total 37p weekly tax hike across the region's six local authorities - was thrown out and scaled down.

A Home Office allocation has pledged 104 more officers to the force over thee years, 66 of which have been recruited so far with the remaining 38 set to come on board in the next year.

The 18 posts granted by the authority will complement that new injection of staff in a bid to ease pressure on the force's crimefighters.

A survey published by Mr Brunstrom's office in January found most people were prepared to pay an extra 10p in tax to fund another 36 patrol officers.

It led to the force's second recommendation for new officers.

More extensive research, polling 3,000 people in the region, was drawn up in time for the police authority's morning meeting and indicates 77% of people are willing to pay 10p more.

But the Police Federation wants continued central government funding of the police, not levies on local residents to subsidise crime fighting.

Recently, the federation - which represents lower-ranking officers - said it was not up to pensioners and lower paid people to bankroll police operations.

And, it said, there were now more constables than ever before.

Funding debate

Mr Brunstrom wanted to swell his force above that figure and over the extra 57 officers needed to replace retiring officers in 2002.

Police officers walking
The public want more bobbies walking the beat
North Wales Police currently employs 1,500 officers, while 1,200 are constables on the beat.

In December 2001, the UK Government released figures showing the number of police officers had increased for the third consecutive year.

That moves Labour toward its nationwide target of 130,000 policemen and women by 2003/04.

The three-year Crime-fighting Fund announced by the Home Office in 2000 granted North Wales Police 104 officers, South Wales 158, Gwent 81 and Dyfed-Powys 79.

Assistant Chief Constable Clive Wolfendale used the force's initial survey to highlight the proposals in January.

"For some years now people have been telling us that what they want to see from the police are uniformed officers - highly visible, reassuring and preventing crime in their communities.

"We listen to that, we understand it and we're trying to respond.

"People want to see more bobbies on the beat."

However, North Wales AM Alison Halford branded the police's original request "unworkable."

"It is a huge sham and disingenuous way of getting more money," she told BBC News Online.

"You cannot promise these extra officers will spend all their time on the beat.

"Whatever they are trying to do, there will always be something that will take officers away from the streets."

See also:

18 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK police numbers leap
18 Dec 01 | UK
Q&A: Police numbers
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett's bold plans for police reform
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Top police recruits to be fast-tracked
19 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Crime figures: In detail and by area
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