Concerns over police merger plans

First published in News

WILTSHIRE Police is one of four forces that has heavily criticised a government plan to merge police authorities across the south west.

The plans, raised this month by government ministers, could see Wiltshire Police merge with Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall, Avon and Somerset and Dorset police forces.

Four of them have joined an alliance to say that they would collaborate closely but would not support an amalgamation. To date, Avon and Somerset Police Authority has decided against joining the alliance.

A spokesman on behalf of all four forces said: “The vision is supported by a commitment to collaborate closely both operationally and as organisations so that individually and collectively our police forces are more efficient and effective, making the south west safer.”

In 2006, the government abandoned plans to cut the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to 24 but the idea has resurfaced once again.

But the four forces believe that they are already working together efficiently and a merger of regional forces is not necessary.

The alliance authorities are discussing combining some functions such as collectively buying uniforms and vehicles to save money.

Chairman of Gloucestershire Police Authority Rob Garnham has said that local people want to keep their police forces separate so they can identify them.

He said: “We are against the idea of merging because we recognise that local people identify with their local constabulary. It is important to keep policing on a local level. We do not want someone in Devon sorting our local crime issues.

“The human resources and IT costs would be huge if we merged. So for these reasons it is very much collaboration, yes, amalgamation, no.”

When the original plans were abandoned in July 2006 – at an estimated cost of more than £6m – the Home Office said the process of preparing for mergers had caused police forces to work more closely together and build better working relationships.

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