Magazine article Public Finance

More Forces Face Merger Plans

Magazine article Public Finance

More Forces Face Merger Plans

Article excerpt

Police forces reacted with a mixture of delight and dismay after Home secretary Charles Clarke set out merger plans for three more English regions this week.

In a written statement to MPs, Clarke announced that he wanted to see the five forces in the East Midlands region merge into a single strategic force to boost the service's ability to tackle serious threats to public safety.

The East of England would be served by two strategic forces: Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, and Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. In the Southeast, Surrey and Sussex would be expected to merge into a single force, while Hampshire, Kent and Thames Valley could remain as 'stand-alone' forces.

Clarke met with the chief constables and authority chairs concerned on March 20 and all sides praised the meeting as constructive. The police authorities have until April 7 to decide whether to merge voluntarily or be instructed to do so.

Liz Campbell, chair of Surrey Police Authority, which had wanted to remain separate, said: 'While we have some concerns over a merger, we accept that Parliament has the final say in requiring us to merge, and we will continue to do our best to deliver a solution that secures a good future for Surrey.'

She added that any merger had to be properly funded so the financial burden did not fall on local council tax payers.

Peter Jones, Campbells opposite number at Sussex Police Authority, also queried whether a merger was the best option. 'Despite our repeated requests, the key questions on how this is to be paid for, what the implications are for staff and how any new force will be held to account locally remain unanswered,' he said. …

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