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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 19:11 GMT
Police forces 'to be cut to 24'
Police recruits
Police authorities have until 7 April to respond to plans
The number of police forces in England and Wales will be cut from 43 to 24 under controversial merger plans, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has announced.

In the East Midlands, five existing constabularies will merge to form one "super force".

Two other new forces will be created from six existing county forces in the east of England, and Surrey and Sussex will also join together.

Hampshire, Kent and Thames Valley won a reprieve and will stay as they are.

The Conservative Party opposes the changes, saying they would need to see "independent evidence" that the benefits outweighed the costs.

'Specialist expertise'

The home secretary told the Commons in a written statement: "My vision for the police service in the 21st century is that it should be close, responsive and accountable to the communities it serves."

Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk
Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex
Surrey and Sussex
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

He said community policing would be supported by larger forces with the "capacity and specialist expertise to protect the public from wider threats such as serious and organised crime."

Mr Clarke is due to meet representatives from police forces and authorities in affected areas on Monday.

Police authorities have until 7 April to respond to the proposals, although the final say on the reforms lies with the home secretary.

The Conservatives' Nick Herbert labelled the proposed mergers "expensive, disruptive and unwanted".

"We believe that the public should be properly consulted about the future structure of their local police force.

"Mergers should not proceed unless there is independent evidence that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs, and local people have endorsed the changes in a referendum."

'Bribe' accusation

Together with another set of amalgamations announced earlier this month, the plans would reduce the number of forces in England and Wales to 24.

A decision on mergers has yet to be made in the South West and in the Yorkshire and Humber region, but if mergers set out by the Home Office in November are followed, England and Wales would be left with 17 forces.

The Association of Police Authorities had 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.

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23 Dec 05 |  UK Politics
Plan to cut police forces to 12
10 Nov 05 |  UK Politics

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