Save the Essex Police Force!

Hawkwell Liberal Democrat Vic Leach had the following letter in the Evening Echo last week attacking the Labour government’s policy of merging police forces into bigger, more remote super-forces:

“I am saddened, but not surprised, at Angela Smith toeing the party line in respect of the inter county police merger, despite the opinion of many of her electorate. Merging County police forces, along with the enlargement of Primary Care Trusts, the establishment of the Thames Gateway Authority and East of England Regional Assembly is no more than our Government imposing regionalisation on the population without risking, as in the north of England, having it rejected.

By creating and increasing the size of these bodies of nominated members the government ensures that control rests with Westminster and is removed from the remit of locally elected and accountable politicians (whatever we may think of their quality). Essex Police, with an international airport, or two, and two massive container terminals has proved itself in the past more than capable of dealing with terrorism and international crime. We now have a Chief Constable committed to improving the quality of policing in the County to better our quality of life. Hawkwell Parish Council has, twice, welcomed Mr Robert Chambers the Chairman of Essex Police Authority to public meetings, I do not believe that were the seat of our police authority move to Cambridge or Bedford we would see sight nor sound of any Authority member let alone the Chairman.

Like many of the governments policies this is an incoherent, cobbled together set of ideas designed only to ensure that power is concentrated at the centre and removed from local control.”

Meanwhile our very own Tory MP for Rayleigh Mark Francois stepped up the pressure today by raising the issue Tony Blair at Prime Minister’s Question Time:

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): Last Wednesday, the Prime Minister told the House that he wanted to listen to what local people say when determining the changes to police forces. Given that in Essex, the police authority, the chief constable, Essex county council and 15 of our 17 MPs, including the hon. Members for Colchester (Bob Russell., Liberal Democrat) and for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay, Labour), have all publicly pledged to back the stand-alone option, will he now honour his pledge to listen and ensure that popular police forces around the country, such as Essex, are allowed to stand alone?

The Prime Minister: Of course, as I said last week, we will listen carefully to all the representations that are made, including the ones the hon. Gentleman has just made.

Later on , Welsh Liberal Democrat MP made a point that is very relevant to comparatively low-crime areas such as Rayleigh:

Lembit ?pik: If the Home Secretary listened, he would realise that serious crime is a consideration, but not the only consideration. Many people think that the proposal will seriously harm local crime management. For example, an all-Wales police force will pool resources in high-crime areas, leaving relatively low-crime areas to experience an increase in crime.

The campaign goes on.