Clarke supports merged force

HOME secretary Charles Clarke today detailed a blueprint that could see Suffolk police merged with its Cambridgeshire and Norfolk counterparts within 18 months.

HOME secretary Charles Clarke today detailed a blueprint that could see Suffolk police merged with its Cambridgeshire and Norfolk counterparts within 18 months.

In a letter to all forces in England and Wales, Mr Clarke has set a timescale for when he expects the fusion of smaller forces to be complete.

This is likely to see Suffolk police become part of a 4,200-officer strong East Anglian force by 2008 at the latest.

In reiterating his backing for such a move, Mr Clarke has also hinted at a recruitment freeze in senior positions within police forces.


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His comments come in the wake of a report on policing by Denis O'Connor and overseen by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

Mr Clarke said: “I am aware a number of forces currently have, or will shortly have, chief officer vacancies and the authorities concerned would normally be considering arrangements for filling them.

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“However, given the prospect of new strategic forces being established over the next 18 to 30 months, I would ask that authorities discuss their succession plans with Sir Ronnie before taking any steps to recruit a chief officer.”

Suffolk police currently has a vacancy for a deputy chief constable but the force today said no decision has been reached on how it may be filled.

Mr Clarke fully supports the move towards regionalised police forces.

He said: “I believe Mr O'Connor has produced a coherent and persuasive report which clearly charts the way ahead.

“The report is unambiguous in its conclusion that the establishment of strategic forces offers the best long-term business solution. I wholeheartedly share this view.”

Suffolk police has been given until December 23 to submit a report into a possible merger with Cambridgeshire and Norfolk forces.

Anna Woolnough, spokeswoman for Suffolk police, said review teams are currently being formed.

She said: “The Home Secretary has set a very tight timescale within which the Authority and Constabulary must respond. In order to address this challenge a review team is being brought together to work on the available options.

“As a high performing force Suffolk, is in a good position to drive the debate and process that shapes any future decision about the structure of policing in the region. In Suffolk we will be seeking the best possible outcome for both for staff and for the people of Suffolk.”

The matter will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Police Authority next Tuesday at the Martlesham police headquarters.

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