A stark warning has been issued against the possibility of police force mergers.
Ron Ball, Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said that taking the ‘nuclear’ option of creating ‘super-forces’ across the country, as suggested by Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, would be disastrous.
Responding to calls for the culling of more than 30 forces in England and Wales to create nine regional ‘super-forces’ instead to cope with forthcoming swingeing cuts to policing, Ron Ball argued that more strategic alliances, such as that between Warwickshire and West Mercia Police, could achieve ‘‘the vast majority of savings…without sacrificing the element that a lot of senior police officers overlook - local democratic accountability.”
At the beginning of his time as Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr Ball said there would be no merger ‘on his watch’.
A recent independent report by the Police Foundation for Warwickshire Police praised Warwickshire’s alliance, suggesting that other forces could learn from them. But it did go on to warn that the cuts to police services will get much worse in the next few years, so the possibility of mergers has to be taken seriously.
The Strategic Alliance between West Mercia and Warwickshire Police was set up in 2012, and police said it has so far delivered savings in excess of £20 million.
Mr Ball also raised serious concerns about the toll super-forces could take on the relationship between the public and the police, and warned that “we need to find ways of making the public relate more closely to the police; gargantuan super-forces will have the opposite effect.”
Hea added: “There is no doubt that police forces are going to continue to face financial challenges, and that efficiency savings will need to be made. To that extent, I am in agreement with Bernard Hogan-Howe.
“Where we part company however, is over his proposal for nine ‘super-forces’.
“They may well qualify as ‘super’ in terms of size, land area and budget, but whether they would be judged as such in terms of service offered to the public may well be completely different.
“Whilst there are areas like procurement and IT where big savings are still available, none of these require the nuclear option of lumping forces arbitrarily together.
“We need to find ways of making the public relate more closely to the police; gargantuan super-forces will have the opposite effect.”