Police merger plan shelved
THE two police forces in Comet country that were named in the Government s merger plans have breathed a sigh of relief that the proposals have now been shelved – for the time being at least. After almost two years of uncertainty, during which time both He
THE two police forces in Comet country that were named in the Government's merger plans have breathed a sigh of relief that the proposals have now been shelved - for the time being at least.
After almost two years of uncertainty, during which time both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire constabularies were unhappy with a possible merger with Essex, the Government announced last week that the Home Office plan for wholesale mergers in England and Wales will now not be imposed on any force.
Police minister Tom McNulty said the mergers would have cost £800m. It has also been estimated 25,000 jobs might have been at risk.
A letter from home secretary Dr John Reid to MPs said one of the reasons for dumping the scheme was cost.
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"We have been having concerns about a number of issues that arise from force amalgamations including cost, council tax and local accountability," wrote Dr Reid.
"These issues need to be properly resolved and that is what Tony (Blair) and I are working towards. It is clear further dialogue with the policing community would be beneficial and we are very happy to engage in such discussions. That is why we have concluded it would be sensible to work to a less rigid timetable that had previously been anticipated.
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"The replacement timetable will be an item for discussion. We want to ensure people are given a proper opportunity to comment and raise objections once all the outstanding issues of relevance are resolved and communicated and that will determine the deadline by which objections have to be lodged."
Commenting on the merger proposals being shelved, Ian Laidlaw-Dickson, chairman of the Hertfordshire Police Authority, said: "We have always agreed that change is necessary to improve the level of protective services in the county but have not been convinced that merging forces would provide the solution.
"We welcome this move by Government as it will enable us to assess fully all the options and find the best way forward for Hertford-shire."
Peter Conniff, chairman of Bedfordshire Police Authority, said: "We have seen reports the Home Office has decided not to proceed with the proposals to enforce mergers as planned.
"If this is the case it is a very welcome development and gives us the opportunity to consider other ways in which we can improve performance, particularly with regard to serious and organised crime.
"The authority will now consider our use of all resources available to us in order to see the recent improvements in performance are sustained and improved still further."
Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, said: "Had the plans for forced mergers gone ahead they would have been an expensive and time consuming distraction.