Could police merger be back on cards?

A MAJOR upheaval of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk could lead to the creation of an East Anglia police force if proposals to merge Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth are approved.

Graham Dines

A MAJOR upheaval of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk could lead to the creation of an East Anglia police force if proposals to merge Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth are approved.

That's the view of Norfolk's chief constable Ian McPherson, who says he would support an enlarged constabulary.

In a submission to the Boundary Committee for England (BCE), which is considering the future structure of council services in the two counties, Mr McPherson said a cross-border “Yartoft” council would have to be policed by just one constabulary.

For operational reasons, he says the new authority could not be policed by two different forces. “If the Yartoft option is in play, then the Norfolk police authority and Suffolk police authority need to change to reflect the inclusion of Yartoft in one or the other.

“It is my view that for either Suffolk or Norfolk to lose a major town, it would call into question the viability of the constabulary which loses a major contributor to its policing area.

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“This would raise again the question of force mergers, which as I have previously stated I would support.”

Plans by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke (MP for Norfolk South) to scrap county constabularies and replace them with larger regional or sub-regional forces were abandoned two years' ago by his successor Dr John Reid after a barrage of public criticism.

Backing the concept of unitary government, Mr McPherson says it will lead to economies of scale and increase efficiency and effectiveness and would be a better use of taxpayers' money.

“These same principles were key drivers for the Norfolk constabulary in supporting the then Home Office proposals for merged police forces on a sub-regional basis which sadly floundered.”

The chief constable's views are echoed by the Norfolk Police Authority, whose chief executive Chris Harding has told the BCE that the long-term viability of the losing force would re-kindle the merged police forces debate. “While the Norfolk police authority might welcome that, others may not,” said Mr Harding.

The Boundary Committee will publish its draft proposals on reorganisation after the local elections in May and will start full public consultation on July 7 before sending in December any revised plans to the Government.

Web link: www.boundarycommittee.org.uk

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