Police force merger calls ‘a load of old nonsense’, says commissioner

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) has opposed calls for local forces to merge as part of a restructuring programme.

Tim Passmore called it 'ill-thought-out' and wrong to suggest replacing the 43 police forces of England and Wales with a smaller number of larger forces.

His comments followed calls by the chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council, Martin Hewitt, for the government to take the chance to restructure the 43-force system as part of a forthcoming review.

Mr Hewitt last week said ministers should use the Royal Commission on criminal justice to start the process of addressing the impact of having dozens of force areas.

He said: "We are entering the new decade with a new government, the recruitment of 20,000 new officers in the next three years and a planned Royal Commission into the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

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"This is a moment of real opportunity to have a thorough look at policing, what it should deliver, what it should prioritise and how it is structured to do that.

"Policing must be a critical part of the Royal Commission. It will be a missed opportunity if police structures are excluded because they have such an impact on the effectiveness of the whole criminal justice system.

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"That's not to say that a major reorganisation by merging forces should be immediately implemented. But we must start the process of reviewing and rationalising our structure and making objective, evidence-based decisions about which elements of policing should be delivered at national, regional and local level."

A commission to 'improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice process' was among measures announced in last month's Queen's Speech.

The last Royal Commission on criminal justice reported in 1993.

At a meeting of the PCC's accountability and performance panel, Mr Passmore said: "Mergers are a load of old nonsense.

"They're ill thought out and would not be the right thing to do.

"My fear is that rural forces will get swallowed up by metropolitan beasts. I'm certainly not a supporter of it."

A Home Office spokesperson said the government was committed to a Royal Commission ensuring the system works for the law-abiding majority.

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