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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 18:42 GMT
Police merger plans to go ahead
Police recruits
There are currently 43 forces across England and Wales
Home Secretary Charles Clarke has confirmed his controversial police force merger plans are to go ahead.

In a written statement, Mr Clarke said he hoped to amalgamate forces in Wales, the North East, North West and West Midlands by April next year.

Greater Manchester Police will remain as one unit but if approved, the plans will see the number of forces in England and Wales fall from 43 to 33.

Cumbria and Lancashire are the only forces which have agreed to amalgamate.

The other forces would be given a four-month consultation period for them to submit their views.

'Slipping out'

Under the reform blueprint set out by the Home Office, there will be mergers of Cumbria and Lancashire; Cheshire and Merseyside; Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria; Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands; and Dyfed Powys, Gwent, North Wales and South Wales.

The plans came after a report from the Inspectorate of Constabulary concluded larger forces would be better able to deal with terrorism and serious crime.

Regional forces will cost millions, erode local accountability and further tighten the home secretary's central control of the police
Nick Herbert
Shadow police reform minister

"Much has changed in society since then and it is my responsibility as home secretary to ensure that the arrangements for policing are such that the current challenges can be tackled effectively," Mr Clarke said.

"The police service should be close, responsive and accountable to the communities it serves, supported by larger forces with the capacity and specialist expertise to protect the public from wider threats."

The Association of Police Authorities has accused ministers of trying to "bribe" forces into submission by offering extra cash to those who submit merger plans quickly.

In an unprecedented revolt in December, the police authorities ignored a deadline set by the home secretary to submit detailed plans for the mergers.

'Deeply flawed'

West Mercia Police Authority is one of those that objects.

Its chairman Paul Deneen said: "We will continue during this objection period to press the home secretary to recognise the benefits of a West Mercia Strategic Police Service working with our adjoining forces.

"We will also explore the options available to us to oppose the merger proposals, which still require parliamentary approval and fly in the face of public opinion."

He said his authority remained to be convinced of the benefits of the plans, or to receive a full government assessment of the business case.

Cleveland Police Authority also objects. Last week it described the proposals as "ill-judged and deeply flawed".

Shadow police reform minister Nick Herbert accused the government of "slipping out" the announcement without parliamentary discussion.

"The prime minister said that police force amalgamations would not be forced through, but since police authorities only last week rejected merger, this is exactly what the home secretary is now doing," he said.

"Regional forces will cost millions, erode local accountability and further tighten the home secretary's central control of the police."




SEE ALSO:
Police force merger is approved
24 Feb 06 |  England
Police body rejects merger plan
21 Feb 06 |  Merseyside
Most forces 'against merger plan'
23 Dec 05 |  UK Politics
Plan to cut police forces to 12
10 Nov 05 |  UK Politics


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