Police forces form lobby group against mergers

Sixteen of the country’s police forces are rallying to try and thwart the Home Office’s controversial proposals to merge them into a series of ‘super-forces’.

They have created the 'Campaign for Local Policing' (CLP) and enlisted Connect Public Affairs to help lobby MPs and win public support.

The proposals followed a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in the wake of the London bombings last July. It
argued that forces of fewer than 4,000 officers were insufficiently equipped to tackle organised crime and terrorism.

But the CLP will argue that while the plans purport to throw more resources into tackling serious crime, this will come at the expense of neighbourhood policing and more preventative action. The CLP's backers include forces in Essex, Sussex, Derbyshire, Cleveland and West Mercia. They fear that shrinking the number of forces will increase police alienation from the public.

The mergers are expected to see the number of forces in England and Wales slashed from 43 to 24.

Malcolm King, chairman of the Association of Police Authorities neighbourhood policy group, is leading the campaign. He said that it aimed to 'resist forced mergers' and had 'nothing against those who wanted to merge voluntarily'.

Cumbria and Lancashire, two of the forces earmarked for a unification, are among a minority that are willing to press ahead.

Three forces – Hampshire, Kent and Thames Valley – were this month told they were considered large enough to continue as standalone forces, as are Greater Manchester and The Metropolitan Police.

The mergers are likely to trigger job cuts among support staff in the merged forces. King said set-up costs, including redundancy payments, would stifle the necessary investment to fight
serious crime.

'The costs of merging are much more than the Government envisaged, and the savings less,' he said.

The Government is holding a four-month 'consultation period' for the merger plans, which elapses on 2 July. It wants to get it voted through the House of Commons before MPs break for the summer recess at the end of July.

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