Alun Michael has been the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales since 2012, during which time it has become recognised as one of the highest-performing police services in terms of response, engaging with local communities and putting an emphasis on preventing crime and harm. He’s protected neighbourhood policing, making good use of the additional PCSOs provided by the Welsh Labour Government and his commitments are spelt out in his Election Statement. Alun says that “looking backwards, the role makes sense of my career – which certainly didn’t make sense looking forwards”.
Growing up in North Wales he was active in the Scout Movement, becoming a Queen’s Scout and then the first person in Wales to be awarded the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award. After graduating from Keele University in 1966 he became a newspaper reporter in with the South Wales Echo and served as branch secretary of the National Union of Journalists.
In 1971 he left journalism to become a full-time youth worker in Llanrumney, then Llanedeyrn – subsequently working for 10 years in the Ely area of Cardiff and then in the Docks areas of Butetown and Grangetown. He was a city councillor from 1973 to 1989, playing a leading role in planning, finance and the redevelopment of Cardiff’s city centre. He was the first (voluntary) secretary of the Prince’s Trust in Wales. He became a magistrate in 1972, chairing the Juvenile Bench until 1987 and serving on the South Glamorgan Probation Committee.
In 1987 he was elected as the Labour & Co-operative MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, succeeding Jim Callaghan. Appointed by Neil Kinnock as a Shadow Minister for Welsh Affairs, he was then appointed by John Smith as Tony Blair’s deputy at Home Affairs in 1992 and served in the same role with Jack Straw until the 1997 election brought in a Labour Government.
His first period in Parliament was dominated by the argument over the Cardiff Bay Barrage, of which he was a strong advocate. He also fought for the creation of a Cardiff Bay Opera House, acting as deputy chair of the Trust to Nicholas Edwards (Lord Crickhowell). Disappointed when the proposals were turned down, he rejoiced when the successor group succeeded with the Millennium Centre, fulfilling the vision of a building that reached out to young people and communities across Wales.
In 1997, as Deputy Home Secretary, he steered the Crime and Disorder Act onto the Statute Book, leading to the establishment of local crime reduction partnerships, youth offending teams, the Youth Justice Board and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. He subsequently entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales, and then became the first First Minister of Wales before standing down and passing the baton to Rhodri Morgan.
As Minister of State for Rural Affairs from 2001, he tackled the challenge of resolving the vexed issue of hunting with dogs, introduced the Clean Neighbourhoods Act and implemented the “Right to Roam”. A life-long supporter of National Parks, he designated the New Forest as a National Park and prepared the ground for designation of the South Downs. He introduced the highly successful Sustainable Development Fund as a partnership fund for National Parks, first in Wales and then in England.
His final role in Government was Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, promoting regional development and the work of Regional Development Agencies. During the UK Presidency of Europe he led the delegation to the World Summit on the Information Society and promoted the concept of “good governance for the Internet”.
After leaving the Government in 2006 he became a senior member of the Justice Select Committee and then the Home Affairs Committee, taking an active part in major inquiries into ‘Justice Reinvestment’, the changing landscape of policing, the city riots of 2011 and drugs policy nationally and internationally. He sang in the Parliament Choir and also chaired the All-Party Group for Civil Society, the All-Party Group for Corporate Governance, the Parliamentary ICT Forum and the UK Internet Governance Forum, contributing to international debate about internet governance and online crime.
He was involved in a number of international initiatives. He led the UK Parliamentary Delegation to the tripartite US-German-UK conference in Berlin in 2001. As one of three senior representatives he was engaged with seeking a devolution answer to the problems of Moldova with its Russian-backed breakaway province of Transnistria and exploring the problems of TB and HIV in South Africa as Co-Chair of the All-Party Group on Global Health. He led a Parliamentary Delegation to Somaliland and Ethiopia to explore issues of recognition and independence for Somaliland. He was one of an expert Parliamentary Delegation to study police leadership in the USA. And from 2006 to 2012 he led UK delegations to the UN’s annual Internet Governance Forum.
In 2012, after 25 years as the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth, he resigned to contest the first Police & Crime Commissioner election in 2012. As the Commissioner for South Wales the golden thread running through his leadership has been co-operation and partnership between public agencies: he believes strongly that no agency can succeed in isolation and quoted the Justice Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment which showed that the levers that influence crime levels lie neither within policing alone nor within the Criminal Justice System generally but within a variety of agencies including education, health and local government. His published articles on the subject advocating “a Public Health approach to Crime Reduction” and he’s put theory into practice, promoting a strong partnership between Policing and Public Health Wales to tackle challenges like substance misuse and the impact of adverse childhood experiences.
He is a long-standing advocate of devolving responsibility for policing to Wales, not as a separatist approach but because of the key role played by devolved agencies and services as partners with the police. A life-long advocate of the Voluntary and Community Sector, he and the Chief Constable have signed a compact with the Sector in South Wales.
He regards the Police and Crime Plan for 2021-2025, published in December 2020 and endorsed by the Police and Crime Panel for South Wales, as the latest staging post that builds on eight years of improvement and change through intense work of building partnerships while coping with the deep cuts in the Police Grant from the Home Office. The Plan has been developed in close partnership with the Chief Constable and reflects the nature of partnership with the seven local authorities in South Wales, with Welsh Government with the Health Service and with other public agencies.
Over the past 12 months the impact of COVID-19 has been enormous, but it has also been seized as an opportunity for Policing in Wales to work in even closer partnership with Welsh Government and Local Government partners. After a drop in demand on the police during the first lockdown, demand soon bounced back to pre-COVID levels with a series of significant challenges in encouraging public observation of the regulations set by Welsh Government. “Behavioural scientists told us that maintaining compliance with restrictions would be challenging after the first couple of months but after more than a year – despite people being desperate to get back to normal – the majority of the public have recognised the need to be patient and I am full of admiration for the balanced and sensible way our police officers and staff have engaged with the public, shown sense and good humour and carried on dealing with the myriad demands that they face every day of the week. There have been those who have chosen to ignore the rules and where necessary enforcement has been pursued without fear or favour – but it’s a tribute to the relationship between the police of South Wales and their public that the majority of the public have shown self-discipline and good humour.”
In particular he has played a leading role in joint work between all the agencies in the Criminal Justice System working in Wales – initially to re-open courts – which has led to an ambitious joint programme to deliver justice in Wales. An agreed “Statement of Purpose” has been followed up by detailed joint work on agreed priorities including the needs of victims and witnesses as well as a focus on offenders.
He believes that as we emerge from the Pandemic, the next three years will enable South Wales Police to build soundly on these firm foundations, continuing the relationship of “collaboration and mutual challenge” between his team and the chief constable’s team. He believes that the approach of Welsh Labour Ministers has encouraged the collaborative approach while the Policing Partnership Board for Wales has enable a joint approach to be taken to major issues including domestic abuse, substance misuse, alcohol, street violence and mental health. And he has praised the delivery by Welsh Labour Ministers on their manifesto commitment to fund an additional 500 PCSOs across Wales – 206 of them for South Wales – with a promise of another 100 PCSOs if Welsh Labour forms the Government after May 2021.
The official webpage for the South Wales Police & Crime Commissioner is here:
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