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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Axed police mergers cost millions
Police recruits
The mergers were opposed by many forces
Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money was spent preparing for police force mergers which were later abandoned, the BBC has learned.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show 27 police forces spent 6.1m preparing for the move.

Figures for how much was spent by the remaining 16 forces in England and Wales have yet to be revealed.

The Home Office said the work carried out in preparation for the mergers would stand forces in good stead.

But the Conservatives labelled it a "staggering waste of hard-earned taxpayers' money".

Compensation claims

Plans to cut the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to 24 were abandoned in July after widespread opposition from police and the public.

The Home Office said earlier it would reimburse forces for the additional costs they incurred preparing for mergers.

The government should concentrate on finding ways to help the police do their job more efficiently
David Davis
Shadow home secretary

But some forces complain no compensation is available for the existing resources which they diverted into the project.

Examples of what forces spent include 340,000 by Cheshire, almost 500,000 spent by Sussex, and 320,000 spent by Devon and Cornwall.

West Mercia, South Wales and North Wales each spent 400,000, according to the figures.

Jan Berry, chairwoman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file police officers, said some of the preparations had been useful but money had been wasted.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we, and a lot of other people, feel it could have been done in a far more strategic and holistic way."

Mrs Berry said there was a good case for merging some forces' administrative arrangements, adding: "I think the government will want to see forces working in a more collaborative way."

'Essential work'

The Home Office spokesman said the process of preparing for mergers had caused police forces to work more closely together and build better working relationships.

He said a number of forces and police authorities had told ministers they thought they could improve their performance through closer collaboration.

"The work already done will be essential to achieving such an outcome," he added.

The mergers were proposed last year after a report said the existing force structure was unfit for purpose.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has since said the mergers are "not off the agenda" and that greater strategic co-operation between forces is needed.

But shadow home secretary David Davis urged ministers to scrap their merger plans entirely, saying that any regionalisation would be a disaster.

"The government should concentrate on finding ways to help the police do their job more efficiently, such as reducing central government control and bureaucracy," he said.




SEE ALSO
Police mergers 'still on agenda'
12 Jul 06 |  Politics
Forces back out of merger plans
10 Jul 06 |  Lancashire
Police mergers face new obstacle
20 Jun 06 |  Politics

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