Countywide anger as police set to merge

POLICE officials and MPs voiced their disappointment and anger last night as the Government signalled the end of the Suffolk police force.Home Secretary Charles Clarke met with chief officers and police authority chairmen from a number of counties at Westminster yesterday to unveil his plans for 21st century policing, confirming a list of mergers that includes the forces of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

By Danielle Nuttall

POLICE officials and MPs voiced their disappointment and anger last night as the Government signalled the end of the Suffolk police force.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke met with chief officers and police authority chairmen from a number of counties at Westminster yesterday to unveil his plans for 21st century policing, confirming a list of mergers that includes the forces of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Police authorities will have until April 7 to respond, after which Mr Clarke will make a final decision.


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The Home Secretary has the power to force through all the changes even if local police bosses disapprove.

Suffolk Constabulary and Police Authority have not volunteered for amalgamation and last year submitted a recommendation that, if a merger was forced upon them, the most effective solution was to join with Essex and Norfolk.

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Gulshan Kayembe, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority, said: “We would re-iterate our disappointment that the business case submitted by Suffolk, which was extremely detailed and contained strong arguments on this issue, has not found favour.

“Now that we have heard the proposals officially, the authority must consider them in more detail before responding - while still keeping in mind its commitment to ensuring the best possible policing service for local people.”

Jim Keeble, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “What concerns me greatly is that the mergers were justified because they would enable new 'superforces' to be created to deal with major public emergencies but I can't see how three small rural forces such as Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk will be able to achieve that.

“You look across at other areas such as the Midlands or Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire which are joining together and they are going to be massive forces and you wonder how we will fare.

“I'm staggered because there just doesn't seem to have been a scientific process applied. The logical thing, when looking at the rest of the country, would have been to merge all six counties to create an eastern force but it strikes me that politics is playing a bigger part in this than sensible business decisions.”

Megan Howes, Unison branch secretary, said police staff in Suffolk felt vulnerable and uncertain over their future job security.

“There has been a lot of talking and discontent. People feel a lot of work went into the business case and it's as if the Home Secretary has not taken any notice of that,” she said.

“There is a lot of speculation because we don't know how it will affect jobs. There is speculation among staff we will only need one human resources department and one finance department.”

Meanwhile, Bury St Edmunds Tory MP David Ruffley spoke of his anger at the decision and called for the election of a “Suffolk Sheriff” who would be accountable to local people.

“This news is an absolute disgrace,” he said. “Charles Clarke is forcing these reforms through in the face of overwhelming opposition and against the advice of a report carried out by his own department.

“I have repeatedly called for the introduction of a directly elected Police Commissioner for Suffolk. This person would be accountable at the ballot box to local people for the level of crime in their area. Such a move would do far more to focus the police on cutting crime than this ill-conceived regionalisation of our constabularies.”

Mr Clarke's plans will see the number of police forces in England and Wales slashed from 43 to 24.

A “super force” will be created in the East Midlands, merging five existing constabularies, while two further massive new forces will be created in the East of England out of six existing county forces.

Surrey and Sussex will also combine while Kent, Hampshire and Thames Valley have won a reprieve and will remain as they are.

Mr Clarke said in a written statement to MPs: “My vision for the police service in the 21st century is that it should be close, responsive and accountable to the communities it serves, supported by larger forces with the capacity and specialist expertise to protect the public from wider threats such as serious and organised crime.”

n A special meeting of Suffolk Police Authority to discuss the proposed merger will be held at Police Headquarters, Martlesham Heath, on Monday April 3, starting at 5.30pm.

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