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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Narrow backing for police horses
Mounted police
The vote for a mounted section was passed by nine votes to seven
A "misplaced" and "profligate" plan for a 200,000 mounted unit for North Wales Police has been narrowly agreed.

The police authority, which voted in favour by nine votes to seven, admitted misgivings about the plan presented by Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom.

It wants assurances that community policing will not suffer.

Mr Brunstrom defended the proposal for four horses based near Wrexham saying mounted police were more effective than those on foot or in cars.

The authority's own chairman, Ian Roberts was one of those who voted against the proposal.

Mr Roberts said it would send the wrong message to the public and politicians at a time when officers were being withdrawn from streets because of budget cuts.

'Slap in the face'

But other police authority members agreed with the plan, including John Anderson, who said a vote against would be to interfere with the judgement of the chief constable and senior officers.

Afterwards, Wrexham MP Ian Lucas called it a "misplaced use of resources".

Richard Brunstrom
It is my job to spend creatively, innovatively and effectively when financial times get hard
Richard Brunstrom, chief constable

He said: "At a time when police officers are being withdrawn from the streets because of a lack of funding, to allocate these funds to police horses is a slap in the face for the public."

Mr Brunstrom has defended the 200,000 set-up cost as "trivial" in the context of the budget for the area, but acknowledged it would be necessary to prove sceptics wrong.

He told the police authority in his experience the public, who had seen police horses in action in a trial period in the run-up to Christmas, were overwhelmingly in favour.

Mr Brunstrom said: "There's a debate, particularly among politicians and others in north east Wales suggesting this is incompetent and profligate.

"But it is my job to spend creatively, innovatively and effectively when financial times get hard.

"I want to deliver better services, not give up because money is running out. I disagree in the strongest possible terms with those who think now is not the time for good ideas, I disagree in the most profound terms."

He said mounted police were about "six times more effective" than police on foot and "many times more" than police in a car.

Mr Brunstrom added that they had secured sponsorship for a quarter of the running costs.

'Shortfall'

"I'm not asking for extra money, it's what we are doing with existing money. It's doing the best we can with public money."

But Anglesey councillor Eifion Jones asked: "If we needed horses badly could we not have hired them?

"Here we are, setting up a prestige stables at Wrexham. Yet we are facing in the next financial year a shortfall of 3m which will probably mean further cuts in staff."

After the meeting, a police authority spokesman said the narrow majority in favour underlined the misgivings of many of its members.

But, overall, they had been persuaded by "the chief constable's case in relation to the additional public reassurance police horses can bring to our streets.

"We have sought an assurance that the funding required to establish a mounted unit will not have an adverse effect on neighbourhood policing," the spokesman added.




SEE ALSO
Mounted police plan moves forward
16 Dec 06 |  North West Wales
Police buy in town horse patrols
04 Dec 06 |  North West Wales

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