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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 11:57 GMT
Police silent over merger plans
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The four Welsh forces worked together on the submission
The four Welsh police forces have said they will not meet a deadline to tell the Home Secretary their preferences for future police organisation.

The forces have until Friday afternoon to submit plans for possible mergers.

But they said they had instead submitted detailed business cases for different options, without stating which one they prefer.

The Home Office wants to restructure the 43 English and Welsh forces, reducing them to as few as 12.

Just 13 of the 43 forces have expressed a desire to merge, according to figures from the Association of Police Authorities.

The association also claimed none had submitted a full and final business plan, although some have given detailed proposals with costings.

The options in Wales are:

  • Keeping the present arrangement
  • The same but with North Wales Police having greater co-operation with Cheshire Police
  • Creating two forces by merging North Wales Police with Dyfed-Powys Police and South Wales Police with Gwent Police
  • Four merging to form one force

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has maintained his preference for one Welsh force to be created.

He believes larger forces across England and Wales would perform better at dealing with organised crime and terrorism.

Although three out of four Welsh chief constables told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee earlier this month they supported that plan in principle, they want the costs of restructuring to be met by the government.

Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable Terry Grange said the plans were "verging on a shambles" and accused the Home Office of a lack of "financial, professional and political backing".

Terence Grange
Terence Grange said plans were "verging on a shambles"

The four Welsh police forces issued a statement on Friday which said that their submissions to the Home Secretary included "detailed business cases" for various options for the future of policing in Wales but did not state a preferred option.

The statement said: "The (police) authorities have highlighted their ongoing concerns over the demands for pace of change and a lack of consultation."

The statement cited "fears about the potential impact on local policing, financial implications and clarity over future...command structures as the reasons why they are unable to submit a preferred option."

'Neighbourhood policing'

In a meeting with Home Office minister Hazel Blears earlier this week, the chief constables highlighted Wales's status as a nation and geographical and cultural issues they said would have to be taken into account in any future policing structure.

South Wales Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Wood, who has acted as director of the all-Wales project team looking at the proposals, said: "Our intention remains to ensure that Wales has a future policing structure that delivers strong neighbourhood policing."

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain told Radio Wales on Friday that he appreciated there were a number of concerns, but said he thought they could be addressed.

He said: "I think there is a certain amount of negotiating space being cleared here and that may be true in respect of Wales, as well.

"I think the outcome will be an all-Wales force backed by each of the police authorities and each of the chief constables, even though it may not appear that is the case at the moment."

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