Police forces given stay of execution

POLICE forces across East Anglia were given a stay of execution last night as Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced full-scale merger in the North of England and Wales.

By Graham Dines

POLICE forces across East Anglia were given a stay of execution last night as Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced full-scale merger in the North of England and Wales.

A number of options are being considered for four English regions, but all are believed to include compulsory mergers between neighbouring forces.

Across the East of England, the six forces of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire could be merged into one super regional force, although the Home Secretary is looking at various east-west and north-south link-ups.


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The Government argues the mergers are necessary to create larger forces with the capability to deal with specialist tasks such as counter-terrorism.

Mr Clarke said an assessment by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) had concluded there was “only one acceptable option” for the North East, the North West, the West Midlands and Wales.

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Under the proposals for the West Midlands, the Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands forces will merge while in the North East, the Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria forces are to combine.

In Wales, the existing four forces of Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, North Wales and South Wales forces will become one, while the North West will be split into three - Cheshire will merge with Merseyside, Cumbria with Lancashire while Greater Manchester remains a stand alone force.

In a Commons written statement, Mr Clarke said: “Final decisions on how we proceed in these areas will of course be based on the full consideration of the implications for organisational resilience, affordability, precepting and the impact on the wider criminal justice system.”

Mr Clarke said he would also be writing to the chief officers and police authorities in the other five regions “to explain the process and timescales for further discussions on the position in their regions.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said that Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabularies Sir Ronnie Flanagan, whose report last September has led to the mergers, had not come down on one conclusive way forward for policing in the six counties of the east of England.

The Home Secretary - who is MP for Norwich South - will now be considering differing proposals before making a decision within the next few weeks, but the spokesman added: “The appetite here is to do it as quickly as possible.”

Richard Spring, Conservative MP for Suffolk West, said: “This is only a temporary reprieve for our independent constabularies. The Government's regional obsession is marching on regardless.”

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