South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner responds to AberdareOnline on Policing in Cynon Valley

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner responds to AberdareOnline on Policing in Cynon Valley

After attending the Aberaman Ward Pact meeting on July 20th, I found the proceedings rather intriguing. Typically, these local gatherings centre around discussions concerning off-road motorbikes or scramblers. However, during this particular meeting, a constable made a significant announcement that raised concerns among attendees: the police would no longer actively pursue or follow individuals riding scramblers, even if they were on public highways. This statement left me with the impression that off-road motorbike and scrambler riders could potentially flout the law with impunity.

In light of this, one resident expressed their frustration, leaving the meeting with the sentiment that reporting scramblers’ off-road and on-road activities in Cwmaman was a futile endeavor. Additionally, during the meeting, we were informed that Rhondda Cynon Taf Council taxpayers would be financing a Police Community Support Officer to collaborate with the council’s Community Wardens. The constable noted that this allocation of resources would result in a shortage of law enforcement personnel.

The issue of off-road motorbikes or scramblers is not a recent problem; it has persisted for years, much like the issue of boy racers. Regrettably, the public’s patience has worn thin due to the perceived lack of action from the police, who only occasionally visit the sites, take photographs, and return to the station. One resident eloquently summarized this frustration on Twitter:

“As I sit here now in Cwmaman… the off-road bikes, like EVERY day, are in the area and have been for the last hour. They will be here all day AGAIN, but SWP will probably come here, take a selfie, and post on social media ‘nothing to report here.'”

The Rhondda Cynon Taf Council also voiced its concerns on Twitter, describing the damage caused by scramblers as “MINDLESS VANDALISM!” The council implored anyone with information to contact South Wales Police at 101.

This issue has been documented in various news outlets, such as WalesOnline, which reported in 2016 that police were taking steps to address the problem of off-road bike nuisance in Rhondda. In August 2022, South Wales Police initiated an operation by their new anti-social off-road team (ASORT) in the Cynon Valley and surrounding areas. Additionally, in March 2023, a joint partnership initiative was launched between Natural Resources Wales and South Wales Police to establish a new off-road motorcycle unit to combat illegal off-roading in South Wales.

In the midst of these developments, Gareth Prosser, the force’s community safety manager, emphasized that off-road biking had resulted in “large environmental issues” in Rhondda Cynon Taf, particularly destabilizing coal tips.

We have addressed the issue of off-road motorbikes or scramblers with Alun Michael, the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, through email correspondence on AberdareOnline. Please find below both my inquiry and the response from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council employing Community Wardens

On another note, in 2017, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council hired 12 Dog Wardens or Community Wardens in response to the persistent issue of dog mess in the area.

This raises questions about the fate of these 12 Community Wardens. It is perplexing that a council that frequently laments financial constraints but can afford to employ Community Wardens. This raises the question of why taxpayers are effectively funding a third police force when we already contribute to the Police and Police Community Support Officers, as well as the Crime Commissioner and Police Crime Panel through our council tax.

Recent reports by Andrew Morgan leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council may need to curtail its activities and focus only on statutory obligations due to financial constraints.

Joint patrols with RCTCouncil Community Wardens 1 September 2023

In light of this, it is perplexing that the council has decided to employ an additional 14 Community Wardens, whose salaries are sourced from the Highways and Streetcare budget. This raises concerns about the impact of such decisions on essential services, such as waste collection.

The question arises as to why residents are essentially paying for law enforcement services twice.

Furthermore, the lack of a publicly accessible police station in Cynon Valley, particularly Aberdare, is a notable issue. While the Police cite cost as the reason for not opening Aberdare Police Station to the public, recent actions, such as hiring community wardens and Police Community Support Officers for various roles, appear contradictory to this rationale. This raises questions about the allocation of resources and priorities within the council.

In conclusion, Police and Communities Together, or PACT, is a crucial initiative that allows residents to have a say and active involvement in shaping the policing of their local neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, my recent attendance at the Aberaman Pact Meeting on August 24th revealed a recurring focus on off-road motorbikes or scramblers as the main issue of concern. While residents were eager to engage with law enforcement officers to address this ongoing problem, the absence of Police Officers and Community Support Officers at the meeting left attendees disillusioned.

Subsequently, I wrote to the local Police Inspector seeking an explanation for the absence of law enforcement personnel at the PACT meeting and an update regarding the damage to Mike’s Field in Aberaman. To date, I have not received a response.

In light of these developments, it is imperative that we continue to advocate for effective measures to address the issues posed by off-road motorbikes and scramblers in our community, as well as to ensure transparency and accountability in our local law enforcement efforts.

Anti-social behaviour and off-road bikes

Research Briefing

Published Wednesday, 25 May, 2022

Email To Alun Michael

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner

21st June 2023

Dear Mr. Michael,

Re: Points raised in the Aberaman Ward Pact meeting on 20th July

Subject: Off-road Motorbikes or Scramblers

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to discuss a matter of concern that was raised during the recent Aberaman Word Pact meeting.

The persistent issue of off-road motorbikes or scramblers on our public roads has been a long-standing problem in our community.

As you are aware, this issue has persisted for years and has proven difficult to address under normal circumstances. However, during the meeting, it was brought to our attention that the police have received a directive from the Chief Constable prohibiting pursuits of these vehicles due to the recent Ely riots.

Unfortunately, this directive seems to be enabling off-road motorbike and scrambler riders to continue their unlawful activities without any fear of consequences. This, in turn, disregards the safety and well-being of law-abiding members of the public who are expected to abide by the law or face penalties. It appears as though there is an imbalance between the treatment of those who break the law and those who strive to uphold it.

Subject: Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

I would also like to take this opportunity to discuss the matter of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in our area. With the total core support for police forces in Wales for 2023-24 set at £433.9 million, it is the responsibility of the Commissioner to allocate the budget for the police. I recall a time when nearly every village had a police sergeant and constable, and it is disheartening to see a decline in visible police presence in recent years. The introduction of PCSOs in September 2002 was intended to address this issue.

As you may know, PCSOs have certain powers, such as issuing fixed-penalty notices for offenses like littering, demanding identification from individuals engaged in anti-social behavior, and confiscating alcohol from those under 18 years old. Additionally, PCSOs can request assistance from police officers in making arrests. However, the authority and scope of power granted to PCSOs can vary between different police forces. It is worth noting that PCSOs are required to wear a clearly marked uniform that identifies them as such.

Regrettably, despite their intended purpose to assist the police, I rarely observe PCSOs patrolling our area. They seem to be more involved in activities like photography and litter picking, as evidenced by their frequent posts on Twitter.

During the meeting, it was brought to our attention that one of our local PCSOs will be transferred to work with the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Community Wardens.

This raises concerns as to whether the Welsh Government or the council is funding this project. Essentially, this means additional public funds are being allocated to the police for a PCSO who will primarily work with Community Support Officers and, as I have been informed, share a vehicle.

Furthermore, we were informed that our local police team is understaffed, with only two individuals responsible for covering the Aberaman ward. This raises a significant question: With a budget of £433.9 million, why is it challenging to allocate adequate resources to effectively police our area?

The situation is compounded by the fact that the local authority has employed numerous Community Wardens, which, again, represents an additional expense for taxpayers. It is disheartening to witness an increasing number of bureaucratic positions, such as yours, focusing on paperwork and meetings, of which many appear to be of limited value, mirroring the inefficiencies found in large organizations. Instead, we need a stronger emphasis on fundamental police work.

In the past, we had a police sergeant, constable, inspector, and so on, with just one Chief Constable. Mobile phones and the Internet were not as prevalent as they are today. Having had the opportunity to work at the Police Headquarters, I have witnessed firsthand the extent of wasteful practices that occur.

We now find ourselves with four layers of policing: the Police Commissioner’s office, the Police, PCSOs, and Community Wardens, not to mention the Police Helicopter.

Aberdare Police Station

Unfortunately, the Cynon Valley lacks a police station accessible to the public. The station in Merthyr is neither conveniently located nor user-friendly, and the one in Pontypridd is situated 12 miles away from Aberdare. These service cuts are ostensibly aimed at saving money, but they result in reduced accessibility for the local community. While it is true that one can contact the police through the Internet or telephone, the absence of a local police station in the Cynon Valley raises concerns.

I kindly request your prompt attention to the points raised in this email and hope that you can provide satisfactory answers to address these matters. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Via Email

31st August 2023

Thank-you for your email dated 21st June 2023 which raised a number of issues and I have sought operational details in order to be able to provide you with a detailed response.

Off-road Motorbikes or Scramblers

This is a long-standing and difficult isuue which crops up in a variety of settings in different ways, not just locally but across England and Wales. It’s an issue that the Leader of RCT Council, Cllr Andrew Morgan, discussed with Natural Resources Wales and others. Currently police officers in Mid Glamorgan are regularly running joint operations with Natural Resources Wales to target anti- social use of off-road motorcycles and we use specially trained officers using off road bikes and drones as well as neighbourhood policing officers.

Officer in your local area are also encouraging members of the community to continue to report concerns and where video evidence is available to provide that to the police to that retrospective action can be taken.

More recently the advent of E-Scooters and high-powered electric motorbikes have complicated the challenge. I’m sure you are aware that the public are calling for more to be done to deal with the issue while also demanding that interventions are limited because of the risks to youngsters if they are chased.

These issues are matters of discussion both nationally and locally with every effort being made to apply common sense and with many legal and practical considerations to be wrestled with. As with so many issues, the more the public report concerns to the police and through local Community Safety Partnerships the more likely we are to achieve success in eradicating – or at least reducing – the problem.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

You have raised a number of questions raised so have tried to cover them below:

Your local neighbourhood Policing team are based at Aberdare Police Station and this station it is resourced 24 hours a day with a mixture of Neighbourhood and Response Officers. The cost of providing a front desk in local police stations became prohibitive some years ago especially as the use made of them by the public became less and less.

South Wales Police have put the emphasis instead on the speed and quality of response to incidents and events and on increasing the local engagement with communities and a problem-solving approach to the issues that bother local people.

Our partnership with RCT Council aims to increase our joint effectiveness in tackling town centre issues and is greatly valued. It has to be remembered that the Home Office has cut the annual Police Grant by over 35% in recent years and that translates into a daily struggle to have the right resources in the right place.

The resource levels in each area are decided by the Chief Constable taking into account detailed analysis of crime and anti-social behaviour data, as well as other indicators such as social deprivation. The Policing team responsible for policing the Cynon has received an uplift in staffing as a result of recent recruitment.

The role and duties of PCSOs are very clear and they are threefold : They are to be communicators – listening to and understanding the concerns and worries of local people. They are there to solve problems, working with the local community and other agencies locally to tackle issues that are often highly complex. And they are to support and enable the community to be resilient and to address local issues collectively. The role of the PCSO in South Wales is being supported and enhanced because the role they play is invaluable. There has been “churn” recently as PCSOs were recruited to be police officers if they wished to do so but it is hoped that the period of “churn” is almost over and that PCSOs will have a longer-term presence in every community. We do have PCSOs whose long-term commitment goes back over 12 or 15 years and in a few cases to the full 20 years since the first PCSOs were appointed and their knowledge of their local patch can be absolutely vital.

Council Community Wardens

As mentioned earlier we have entered into a ground-breaking partnership with Rhondda Cynon Taff Council where the local authority have funded additional PCSOs to work with their Council Community Wardens with a particular emphasis on dealing with town centre issues. I particularly welcome the commitment of the Leader, Cllr Andrew Morgan, to making Community Safety a reality locally.

We are working on improved communication systems for the public, particularly on very local issues, and that isn’t easy when money is so tight and when demand on the police has risen massively in recent years. It’s worth remembering that some 80% of calls to the police are not about crime and are often about very complicated issues to which a response is required. So our way of gathering knowledge and information is being expanded, for instance through the new “South Wales Listens” system to enable people to communicate their concerns to the local PCSOs. In terms of contact details there is a neighbourhood team section on this website which lists all officers mobile numbers – www.southwaleslistens.co.uk.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Alun Michael JP OStJ FRSA

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales

Police pay scales https://www.polfed.org/resources/pay-scales/constable-pay-scales/

Let’s not forget the South Wales Police and Crime Panel

Police and Crime Panel

The Police and Crime Panel is responsible for overseeing the Commissioner and scrutinising his decisions.

Panel membership is made up of ten local Councillors, representing the seven local councils in South Wales, along with two independent members.

The responsibilities of the panel include:

  • Make reports and recommendations about actions and/or decisions of the Commissioner;
  • Scrutinise the draft Police and Crime Plan;
  • Summon the Commissioner, and their staff, for public questioning;
  • Scrutinise and potentially, by two-thirds majority, veto the police budget and council tax precept;
  • Scrutinise and potentially, by two-thirds majority, veto the appointment of the Chief Constable;
  • Hold confirmation hearings for senior staff;
  • Deal with lower level complaints against the Commissioner.

The panel is not there to scrutinise the performance of South Wales Police directly – that is the role of the Commissioner. Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council is responsible for the administration of the Police and Crime Panel.

How will the Police and Crime Panel scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner?

Panel members have the power to make reports and recommendations about any actions and decisions taken by the Commissioner.  They have a specific role in scrutinising the draft Police and Crime Plan, council tax precept, Chief Constable appointments, and the Annual Report. They also have the power to call in the Commissioner and their staff for public questioning.

All reports and minutes are published publicly.

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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