Our policies address the wide range of emergencies that, despite the best precautions, can befall both individuals and communities. Wessex is a relatively safe place to live. Our highest crime rate per 1,000 population is in Hampshire, which ranks 17th of 42 in England & Wales. Wiltshire has the lowest rate among the forces supplying data. Life in Wessex though is by no means perfect. In our largely rural region, ambulance and fire service response times are a vital concern. In December 2021, the South West had the worst average ambulance response times for both Category 1 and Category 2 emergencies, closely followed by the East of England region, covering East Anglia. The argument that poor accessibility is just a cost chosen by those who opt for a rural life is not one we can accept. Emergency services, paid for by everyone, must serve everyone.
The regional level is increasingly becoming a focus of organisation for the main emergency services. We understand the reasons why, but our core belief is that if regional services are to exist there must also be an elected regional government to which they are made democratically accountable.
It is a weakness of the current patchwork of ‘devolution deal’ structures that Local Enterprise Partnerships in Wessex do not align with many of the emergency services they need to be working with. Debate over the reform of services has tended to be inward-looking – focused on back-office savings and economies of scale – rather than on ‘joined-up’ solutions that reduce or remove problems at source but lie outside the service’s operational control.
Short Term – campaigning within the UK – Wessex Regionalists will:
- seek to replace Police & Crime Commissioners with more broadly based police authorities
- prioritise prevention, including improved fire safety standards, and designing products to be more resistant to crime
- seek to ensure that policing will prevent crimes as they happen, not merely detect them afterwards
- support a review of police powers, and of the laws they enforce, to ensure these are genuinely required and respect civil liberties
- demand more meaningful data on police performance, for example, filtering out cases where victims decide not to press charges
- support community-focused responses to local emergencies
- seek to have non-emergency patient transport services taken in-house by the NHS.
Long Term – in a fully devolved region – Wessex Regionalists will:
- form regional police, fire, and ambulance services, with operational control retained locally as far as practical
- establish the Wessex Emergency Management Service to ensure readiness to cope with occasional emergencies that could overwhelm local capacity to respond
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