South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael has stepped into the public row over the reductions in street-lighting carried out by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
In a public statement Commissioner Michael – the former Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth – who is standing for re-election as PCC on May 5th – says ” In general good street lighting improves both personal safety and road safety and helps to reduce crime” – but goes on to blame the Chancellor of the Exchequer for cash-saving cuts being made by local authorities like the Vale of Glamorgan Council .
He says “police officers will continue to carefully monitor the impacts of the changes to establish if there has been any increases in crime or safety that could be attributed to the lighting reduction. However, there is no such evidence at this moment in time.”
However Alun Michael’s comments appear to fly in the face of comments by his own officers.
On February 3rd 2016 Penarth Council was told at its monthly crime briefing there had been a “big spike” in cases of theft from motor cars in the town. Penarth police issued a poster (see above) warning of the crime spate and urged the owners of cars and vans in Penarth to be vigilant, to investigate suspicious noises or behaviour, to park in secure, private places such as driveways or garages and in “well-lit areas.”
Alun Michael says that as the Vale Council installs more LED units with relatively low energy costs, “there may be an opportunity for a number of the current part-night lighting areas to benefit from this type of LED lighting and return to the normal “dusk until dawn” operation.”
However Commissioner Michael says “frankly I would rather see some cuts in street lighting than have greater cuts in the youth service or leisure services or sport or music – because those cuts would also affect public safety as well as quality of life. I’d rather see modest reductions in street lighting than see greater cuts in care for the elderly or in library services – and that’s the choice that has to be made.”
Alun Michael claims “all of us are trying hard to do more with less” . However the South Wales Police Precept has increased at a rate well over inflation in every year since he came to office. In 2013 it rose by 7%, in 2014 by 5%, in 2015 by 5% and this year 2016 will rise by 4%.