Merger ruling hits police funds

The government's decision not to force through controversial police mergers could leave Norfolk with serious financial troubles.

The government's decision not to force through controversial police mergers could leave Norfolk with serious financial troubles, a senior figure said today.

Confusion surrounded the plans after police minister Tony McNulty initially said they had been scrapped but then backtracked and said that mergers would not be forced on constabularies but retained “as a last resort”.

As revealed in the EDP on Tuesday, the notion of super regional forces was effectively left in tatters after Lancashire and Cumbria, which volunteered to pioneer the scheme, pulled out after failing to “resolve all the issues”.

Speaking at a meeting of police authority members today, Mr McNulty stressed that forces had now been asked to discuss with the Home Office alternative ways of dealing with shortcomings identified by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

“We have said sit down with us and work out how that can happen, and how that can happen far more readily in the context of a wider police reform package, rather than it being some structural issue,” he said.

Asked if there would be even one merger by the end of this Parliament, the minister said: “We'll see.”

Most Read

Reacting to the news Stephen Bett, chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, who was in favour of plans to merge with Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to create an East Anglian force, said: “If we stay as we are, in 2009/2010 we are going to be in serious financial trouble.”

Mr Bett said the county was bound to suffer as a result, particularly in terms of neighbourhood policing, which the government is keen on.

But in Suffolk, the decision not to go ahead was welcomed.

Deputy chairman of the police authority David Wood said: “We said all along that to amalgamate us with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire would still leave a small rural force with the same problems. The government needs to let us get on with our jobs and move forward in collaboration,” he said.

“The whole agenda was rushed and forced upon us without even a warning. I think they should have consulted with us before it was spoken about publicly.”

Michael Williamson, chairman of Cambridgeshire Police Authority, agreed.

He said: “We have maintained from the beginning that full amalgamation would be both costly and risky.

“As we understand the situation, the money is simply not there and we would rather use any available resource for a more direct purpose.”