Concern voiced over police HQ location
A NEW police force for Suffolk could be run from a headquarters in Norfolk to help justify a multi-million pound debt, it was warned last night.Norfolk Police Authority has around £40million to pay back on its newly-built £216million Wymondham base, with the debt to be paid over a 35-year period.
A NEW police force for Suffolk could be run from a headquarters in Norfolk to help justify a multi-million pound debt, it was warned last night.
Norfolk Police Authority has around £40million to pay back on its newly-built £216million Wymondham base, with the debt to be paid over a 35-year period.
And with a merger of forces in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire looking ever-more likely, the costly building appears favourite to be chosen as a base for the combined forces.
Last night, Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for south Norfolk, said it would be financial madness not to locate it there.
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And Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for north Norfolk, backed the suggestion, adding the move is the only way to ensure the newly-merged forces are not left with a massive “white elephant”.
The Wymondham base, opened in 2002, was built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme.
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This saw a consortium of private firms paid £216million over 35 years to build and maintain the site.
Norfolk Police Authority is committed to paying 30% of the £4.3million-a-year rent for the site, with the remaining 70% paid by the Home Office.
Mr Bacon said: “That payment has to be made whether or not the building is used as a headquarters. “Financially, it would be crazy to look at basing a joint force anywhere else from the point of view of the taxpayer.
“There are good connections from the point of view of its proximity to the A11. It does seem to be likely that any decision on the location of the headquarters will be based on the PFI.
“It would seem to me pretty common sense to go down that road if the forces are merged. But, personally, I'm a sceptic about the need to have a merger.”
Mr Lamb said: “The three forces could be stuck with a white elephant if they're not careful.
“It does seem sensible to make use of that facility, rather than it being a burden on Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
“If you have got to have a combined force, it's best to use the resources as effectively as possible.”
But Richard Spring, Conservative MP for west Suffolk, said a more centrally-located base would better serve the three counties.
“The problem with regionalisation is the decisions are not being made rationally,” he said.
“If they are taking into account a heavy debt as a deciding factor in where a headquarters building should be located that says everything about the rationality of the merger.
“We've no idea how this merger will affect policing or detection rates. It's an example of bureaucratic meddling which is not in the best interests of Suffolk.”
Joanna Spicer, a Conservative Suffolk county councillor, who is also a member of Suffolk Police Authority, added: “This is a new organisation and we should create a new headquarters as centrally as possible.
“That would be in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket or Thetford. There's no question it could be in Martlesham and Wymondham is not very well located. But it's very premature speculation.”
A spokesman for Suffolk police said it was too early to comment on where a new base could be located.