Police forces could be merged

SUFFOLK could lose its independent police force in a major shake-up that would see it merged with two neighbouring forces by the end of the decade.Under plans being discussed in the Home Office, it would join with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to form an East Anglia constabulary with one chief constable, serving a population of nearly 2.

SUFFOLK could lose its independent police force in a major shake-up that would see it merged with two neighbouring forces by the end of the decade.

Under plans being discussed in the Home Office, it would join with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to form an East Anglia constabulary with one chief constable, serving a population of nearly 2.2million.

The strength of the combined force would be 4,500.

The proposed merger is included in an upcoming report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabularies, Sir Ronnie Flannagan, on the future structure of policing in England.

Sir Ronnie's report is due out next month and is currently being considered by Home Office officials and the Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

Talks of a merger have moved up the agenda because Norfolk and Cambridgeshire do not have permanent chief officers and need to advertise the vacant posts.

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Cambridgeshire appointed Julie Spence as acting chief constable in June, while Norfolk's acting chief constable Carole Howlett is due to end her secondment from New Scotland Yard at the end of the year

All three authorities would have to approve any merger, although the Home Secretary has the power to implement it if Sir Ronnie believes there are strong operational and efficiency reasons.

Gulshan Kayembe, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority, said: "Nothing has been said to us about forcing through a merger.

"Talk of combining Suffolk with other forces has been bouncing around for some time but it does not have to be a full merger.

"Rather than a single force, we could have joint procurement arrangements and closer collaboration with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire on dealing with large scale crimes rather than a full blown single force.

"If amalgamation is proposed, Suffolk Police Authority will want to look in detail at the impact it would have on Suffolk.

"We have a responsibility to ensure this county is properly policed and resourced and we would not approve anything which adversely affected Suffolk."

The police would follow the creation of the East Anglian ambulance service covering the three counties, and the announcement last week of an East of England control room to handle responses to fire service emergencies across six counties.

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