The Home Secretary, John Reid has told Essex Police he has abandoned plans to force them into a shotgun marriage with Hertfordshire and Bedforshire. This is good news for everyone who campaigned against it.
As the Guardian reports:
The government’s programme of forced police mergers, which was championed by the former home secretary Charles Clarke, has been scrapped, the prime minister confirmed yesterday.
Instead, the 43 forces in England and Wales are to be encouraged to enter into new forms of collaboration, including possibly voluntary mergers, to strengthen the police response to terrorism, organised crime and major incidents such as the Soham murders.
Mr Blair told the Commons yesterday that the plan to reduce the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to around 20 was still on the agenda, but it had been decided it was not “sensible” to force mergers through.
“It is still important and will be important in parts of the country where there is either merger of forces or certainly a far better strategic capability that crosses border lines,” said the prime minister.
Both main opposition parties claimed a victory on the issue yesterday, with the Conservatives’ David Cameron charging the PM with wasting police time and the Liberal Democrats pointing to the failed programme as further evidence of the Home Office’s worrying reputation for rushed and ill thought-out proposals.
The final nail in the coffin of forced mergers came yesterday from the Association of Chief Police Officers, which had been their strongest supporter. Acpo president Ken Jones said if the straightforward voluntary merger of the Lancashire and Cumbria forces – which collapsed earlier this week – could not be carried out, it was difficult to understand how more complex and costly mergers were still viable.
Senior police officers, however, believe significant weaknesses in the structure of forces in terms of tackling terrorism and serious and organised crime still have to be urgently tackled.