Police may decide to oppose merger

POLICE authority members agreed last night to include a proposal to keep Suffolk's force independent in a business case to be submitted to the Home Office on future policing.

By Danielle Nuttall

POLICE authority members agreed last night to include a proposal to keep Suffolk's force independent in a business case to be submitted to the Home Office on future policing.

The Government has made it clear its preference for police forces to merge across the country in a bid to improve efficiency and response to major incidents.

Suffolk Police Authority has outlined three options that explore the possibility of an amalgamation with neighbouring forces but has added an additional fourth choice which is to maintain and enhance the status quo.

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The other three options comprise creating a regional super force by merging all six East Anglian forces (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk), amalgamating Suffolk with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire or amalgamating Suffolk with Norfolk and Essex.

Gulshan Kayembe, Suffolk Police Authority chairman, said last night: “We have reached this stage after a great deal of hard work by both the constabulary and authority to meet a very challenging deadline.

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“Our initial business case to the Home Office sets out the four options we believe are viable for the future policing structure in the region.

“Now our aim is to examine these in more detail to identify the best structure for policing our county before submitting a preferred option to the Home Office by Christmas.

“This work will include a consultation process, which will see us seeking the views of local people as well as partner organisations.”

The authority's announcement came on the day the Home Office released new figures which show Suffolk and Essex are among the top performing forces in the country.

Suffolk Constabulary has been rated joint sixth place after scoring 13 points in a new performance recording system, while Essex takes the seventh top spot with 12 points.

All 43 police forces across England and Wales have been rated according to their performance during 2004-5 in seven key areas.

Forces were given three points for a rating of excellence, two points for good, one point for fair and minus one point for poor.

Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said: “The latest baseline assessment acknowledges the Constabulary's success in making Suffolk one of the safest counties in the country.

“And, while the way in which our performance is assessed has changed from last year, it is reassuring to see that we are judged as either 'good' or 'fair' in all categories.

“I am particularly pleased that our progress in call handling - which was graded as 'poor' in the previous report - has been recognised with an improved assessment.

“The report also highlights our strong record in tackling crime and promoting safety to reduce fear of crime.”

Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Liam Brigginshaw added: “The HMIC's baseline assessment of Essex Police demonstrates our commitment to constant improvement and consistency.

“Overall we achieved a good in 20 out of 32 areas measured and in eight of the 27 areas looked at by HMIC, Essex Police has improved on the previous assessment carried out in 2003-4.

“In all other areas the force has maintained its good work. Improvements in volume crime investigation and reduction, call management and the training and development of staff all point towards our determination to take a lead in making Essex safer.”

West Mercia was the top-ranking force in the country, achieving 16 points, followed by Northumbria, Hampshire, West Midlands and Surrey.

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