Plaid Cymru’s manifesto pledges show the party is putting rural communities at the forefront of this election campaign, says Llyr Gruffydd, AM and Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary.
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Plaid Cymru is putting rural communities at the forefront of its manifesto pledges in this December’s Westminster election.
Our commitment to protect farmers by remaining in the EU remains at the heart of our message, but Plaid Cymru is also keen to ensure there are other policies to safeguard rural areas.
That’s why we’ve announced plans to create a new £50m crime prevention fund to recruit 1,600 extra police officers through the creation of a Welsh justice system and the devolution of policing.
That’s the equivalent of two new police officers per community in Wales – a huge practical boost everywhere in light of the savage cuts the police service has endured in Wales.
This will be particularly welcomed in rural Wales, where crime is on the increase. Quad bike thefts in particular are an ongoing problem.
Devolving criminal justice is the start of a process to rectify the damage to police forces caused by successive Tory Governments.
For rural areas in particular, this would mean our officers will be better rooted in our communities, instead of being stretched to cover large geographical areas with few resources.
The extra police officers will help facilitate community engagement, in which the police and the community can relay issues of mutual concern.
Targeted, community-based problem-solving approaches improve crime reduction and rehabilitation.
With policing devolved, Welsh police forces would be entitled to an additional £25 million from a block grant from the UK Government, rather than through the unequal police funding formula.
It’s unacceptable that Wales is the only nation in the UK without powers over its policing and justice policies.
Plaid Cymru will demand the creation of a Welsh justice system to create integrated people-centred services – from prisons to counselling to housing – to replace the present callous approach which prioritises targets over people's needs and the interest of our communities – as argued by the Thomas Commission on Justice in Wales.
Another of our rural priorities is to combat the ongoing problem of dog attacks on livestock. Plaid Cymru is calling for the devolution of powers relating to dog attacks.
In my region, north Wales, there were 449 recorded cases of dog attacks between 2013 and 2017.
As well as causing distress, injury and even death to animals, they incur a large financial burden on farmers.
The four main pieces of legislation which currently cover livestock attacks are antiquated and do not fit with current agricultural practices or the seriousness of the offence.
Devolution and a change in the legislation is necessary to ensure the seriousness of this offence is understood, and Welsh police forces have the powers to properly trace and deal with offenders.
We’re working to ensure we have the tools in place to make our rural communities safer and more secure.
This builds on the excellent work being done by Plaid’s two Police and Crime Commissioners, covering almost all of rural Wales.
North Wales PCC Arfon Jones recently added three constables to the Rural Crime Team in that region, with a further three Police Community Support Officers, creating a team of 11 specialist officers.
The team is also using hi-tech methods to combat rural crime, including drones and plans in place to introduce Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras on the road between Dolgellau and Barmouth.
This is what Plaid Cymru is already doing.
We will aim to do even more when we’re in power.
Llyr can be found tweeting at @LlyrGruffydd