Alun Michael, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, is reflecting on the drop in police numbers across the UK since 2009.
“The severe drop came after the conservatives came in. Labour invested in more police officers and the Conservatives cut back.”
Figures show the number of officers in South Wales Police dropped by over 600 between 2009 and 2013.
In addition, this year the police grant has been cut by 7.8 per cent in real terms. Since 2010, it’s been slashed by almost 30 per cent, including inflation.
Mr Michael doesn’t mince his words when identifying central government’s motive: “David Cameron was special advisor to Michael Howard at the time when there were major rows over police salaries and conditions.
“I have the feeling that there is some resentment in David Cameron’s soul from those days.”
Alun Michael was elected to the role of Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012, the first position of its kind in South Wales.
Commissioners were introduced to make the police more accountable to the public, as well as to improve the links between the police and their local communities and provide a check on the decisions made by the chief constable.
They set police budgets and even determine strategies for reducing crime. On the face of it, these are heavy responsibilities.
But since their introduction in 2012, many have questioned whether the role of commissioner is really necessary.
“15 months on, I can see how it works if you’ve got the will to do things,” Mr Michael insists.
“I’m lucky, I’ve got a very good chief constable in Peter Vaughan.
“We’ve both learnt a hell of a lot over the last year or so and we’re applying that, and I think we’ll see the benefits a year or two down the line.”
For now, Mr Michael says the important thing is to continue to successfully reduce crime in South Wales while battling with a shrinking budget and fewer officers on the ground.
To do this, the police must develop new strategies and partnerships as well as forging strong links with the local community.
And attempts to get started are already underway.
“I think South Wales police in recent years have become better and better at that engagement with the community,” Mr Michael says.
At least part of the reason for this, he thinks, can be traced back to the miners’ strikes of the 1980s.
“In most communities in South Wales there would be members of the family on the police side of the picket lines and cousins and uncles and brothers on the other side.
“And actually policing was handled more sensitively during the minor’s strike in South Wales that it was in other places, and that was partly because of the intertwined nature of the communities.”