Police force merger may still happen

THE Suffolk police force could yet merge with neighbouring constabularies despite insistences to the contrary, the Government has suggested.

Elliot Furniss

THE Suffolk police force could yet merge with neighbouring constabularies despite insistences to the contrary, the Government has suggested.

Mergers between police forces are “likely” to take place as part of “organic” reforms to the way the service is structured, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said.

Government plans to force through wide-scale mergers were ditched in 2005 after resistance from chief constables, and a recent white paper ruled out compulsory mergers between the 43 forces in England and Wales.


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But recent economic constraints are understood to have led some to consider voluntary moves to work more closely together in specialist areas such as tackling firearms, drugs and organised crime, or to amalgamate administrative functions.

Mr Straw said that current Home Secretary Alan Johnson favoured change and some mergers were likely.

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He said: “The paradox about the current police service is that it is the only major public service which has not been subject to any fundamental reform for well over 40 years.

“The challenge for the police service is, as it merges its headquarters and specialist services to become more regional at an organisational level but more local and responsive at a community level.”

Last month the chairman of the Suffolk Police Authority firmly shut the door on suggestions that it could become part of a four-county superforce.

Gulshan Kayembe adamantly denied it would be interested in merging with Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire as part of a cost-cutting exercise to save tens of millions of pounds.

The cash-strapped Norfolk and Suffolk forces have already rejected previous attempts to be joined, but are increasingly sharing working practices and combining some specialist teams.

However, Mrs Kayembe poured cold water on the idea of the constabularies merging and the inference there had been any communication over the issue.

She said: “We have had no discussions about a merger. We are on a trajectory for collaboration, not a trajectory for merging.

“Merging is expensive, extremely disruptive and the number of years spent trying to get the savings is difficult to predict. It could be five years, it could be 10 years, it could be never.

“Whatever we could achieve by merging, we could do just as well by collaboration.”

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