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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Police merger plan given go-ahead
Some forces say enlargement will be costly
A controversial series of police mergers will go ahead despite opposition from a number of forces.

The Home Office said 17 existing forces in East Anglia, the Midlands, south east England, Yorkshire and Humberside would become five "superforces".

Home Secretary Charles Clarke says cutting the number of forces from 43 to 24 would help fight organised crime.

Police authorities and forces have questioned how much restructuring will cost. They can object before 11 August.

Mr Clarke expects mergers to begin in the autumn and the new forces would then come into operation on 1 April 2008, he said in a written statement.

Humberside, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire
Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire
Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk
Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire
Surrey and Sussex

Some of the objections by forces have been about the cost of the process, although the Home Office has promised to meet the costs without raising council tax.

Shadow police reform minister Nick Herbert called for a series of local referenda on the issue.

"These amalgamations are being forced through with insufficient debate and oblivious to the views of the communities affected," he said.

"This is a matter of constitutional significance and the public should be given their say."

People don't want to see cuts in neighbourhood policing to pay for management consultants
Nick Herbert
Shadow police reform minister

He said the estimated 500m would come out of the police budget and cause cuts in neighbourhood policing.

The government believes larger police forces will be in a better position to tackle terrorism, organised crime and police the roads more effectively.

Mr Clarke believes forces with fewer than 4,000 officers are too small to meet these challenges alone.

Hampshire, Kent and Thames Valley will remain as stand alone forces but will reconfigure as "strategic forces". Greater Manchester will remain as it is.

In his statement on Tuesday, Mr Clarke announced the following forces would merge:

  • Humberside, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire forces
  • Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire
  • Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk
  • Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire
  • Surrey and Sussex

The home secretary has already said he planned to merge:

  • Cumbria and Lancashire
  • Cheshire and Merseyside
  • Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria
  • Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands
  • Dyfed Powys, Gwent, North Wales and South Wales

The final area to be decided on is the South West and a decision will be taken next month.

If all the South West forces are merged, as was proposed by the Home Office last November, there would be 17 forces in England and Wales compared with the existing 43.

The Metropolitan Police and City of London Police are not part of the review.

Last month the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange said Mr Clarke's argument for restructuring was "misleading and misguided".

It said large forces were no more efficient or effective than smaller ones, and the country's largest force, the Metropolitan Police, was also the worst-performing.

The Association of Police Authorities revolted in December by ignoring a deadline set by the home secretary to submit detailed plans for the mergers.

Police forces 'to be cut to 24'
20 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Police chiefs in merger 'summit'
18 Mar 06 |  West Yorkshire
Police merger plans to go ahead
03 Mar 06 |  UK Politics

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