Extra funding for coronavirus enforcement

The Force is being given more than £300,000 to help fund coronavirus enforcement.

Details of a total of £60 million in surge funding were announced on Wednesday. The funding will be split equally between local councils and police forces.

Gwent’s share of the £30 million being given to forces is £308,038.

The cash boost has been welcomed by Gwent Police Federation chair Maria Henry, although she expressed concerns about the pressure on officers as they try to adapt to changing restrictions being imposed locally and to working with the public to ensure compliance.

“The pandemic is, of course, affecting the way we all live our lives,” says Maria, “But police officers are in the front-line, trying to ensure people comply with the guidelines but also putting their own health at risk while doing so.

“The Government funding is aiming at allowing forces to boost the visible policing presence in our communities but I am just not sure where the resources to do this will come from.

“We can’t just create extra officers overnight. The most obvious thing to me is that forces will use the money to fund over-time and we will see officers working extra long shifts or even cancelling their rest days. They can manage this in the short-term but I am concerned about the long-term impact this could have on both their physical and mental health.

“They will do their best during this national crisis but we also need to ensure officers’ wellbeing is also prioritised.”

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has also welcomed the extra funding saying any genuine new money which helps ease the current pressure on policing can only be a positive thing.

But he added: “My question is, what is expected in return? Policing is over-stretched, and colleagues are already doing all they can during this pandemic. Any suggestion that this extra money would take away the discretion which permits police officers to do their jobs to the best of their ability would be counterproductive and damaging. Alongside this announcement must be an effective public information campaign. This must make it crystal clear what is expected of the public.

“Police officers are already targeting those who wilfully breach Covid-19 regulations and this will continue. The new money will assist policing, but what we really need are more officers and a better communication strategy from the Government.”

The Government announcement said the aim was for police to be more visible to ensure members of the public comply with the restrictions in place to try to halt the spread of coronavirus while councils would get funding and guidance to support compliance and enforcement.

It would, ministers explained, enable police to increase patrols in town centres and ensure that people are complying with the new restrictions, particularly in high-risk areas. The police would also, they said, provide more support to local authorities and NHS Test and Trace to enforce self-isolation requirements.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The vast majority of the British public has come together, followed the law and helped prevent the spread of this virus.

“But we’ve been clear that, with infections rising, we will not allow a small minority of people to reverse our hard-won progress.

“This extra funding will strengthen the police’s role in enforcing the law and make sure that those who jeopardise public health face the consequences.”

Forces will be required to provide the Home Office with enforcement plans to demonstrate how the money is being used to tackle non-compliance with public health rules.