Force may have lost independence fight

ESSEX Police looks set to lose its battle to stay as an independent force, it emerged last night.As Suffolk Constabulary announced that it is set to merge with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, it seems that Essex will now amalgamate with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, creating two “super” forces in the eastern region.

By Sharon Asplin

ESSEX Police looks set to lose its battle to stay as an independent force, it emerged last night.

As Suffolk Constabulary announced that it is set to merge with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, it seems that Essex will now amalgamate with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, creating two “super” forces in the eastern region.

It is thought that Home Secretary Charles Clarke will announce the move in the next two weeks.


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However a spokesman for the Home Office denied any choice had been made and claimed Mr Clarke would continue to meet with police chiefs and seek advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabularies before making his mind up later this month.

Essex Police Authority chairman Robert Chambers said last night he had heard many rumours and conjectures about the merger since the matter was first mooted but had been told nothing concrete by the Home Office about Essex.

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“We have been told of no firm proposals by the Home Secretary, we are still waiting to hear what he has to say,” he said. “Sometimes one area is dealt with before another, these things happen.

“There have been many rumours but the proposals told to us by the Home Secretary are the ones that matter and we have not heard from him.”

But Harwich MP Douglas Carswell reacted angrily to the implication that Essex Police looked unlikely to remain a stand-alone force.

“These will not be 'super' forces but they will make the chief constables even less accountable than they are already,” he said. “This will be the end for local policing and will pave the way for regional government.

“What makes me really angry is we have been given no democratic legitimacy for this at all as it has not been done through primary legislation in the House of Commons but through the back door.

“It's a major, major change in the way we are policed and it is being pushed through without proper debate.”

He said when there were policing problems in his constituency the Essex Chief Constable responded to help deal with them.

“So are we now going to have to call someone in Bedfordshire or will people from Bedfordshire have to call Colchester - it's crazy.”

Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, said he still “lived in hope” Essex would be able to go it alone.

“The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have said they will listen to people's views and I have not met anyone in Essex who thinks we should merge. If we did it would be a complete denial of the consultation process.

“I cannot believe even this Government is as insensitive and dictatorial as to completely ignore the wishes of Essex.”

Both Essex MPs said if a merger went ahead a referendum on the issue should be called in Essex to let the people have their say.

If the police authorities do not agree with the decision there will be a four month consultation, after which Mr Clarke will make the final decision.

Across the border in Suffolk the move was treated with derision by most MPs, while Gulshan Kayembe, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority, said: “It is very disappointing that the business case submitted by Suffolk appears to have been completely ignored.

“A great deal of work went into drawing up the business case, which was based on ensuring the best possible policing service for the people in this area.

“What concerns me is that the suggested amalgamation of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk will simply result in a geographically huge rural force, which does not have the ability to deal with serious and major crime or terrorism.

“However, we will have to wait to see what the rationale is for this decision.”

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