Clarke plan 'threatens traditional policing': Reform of the police service

CHIEF CONSTABLES warned yesterday that Home Office plans to reorganise the funding and structure of forces could threaten the traditional nature of much British policing and undermine local accountability.

Although concrete proposals have not yet been tabled, chief constables believe that Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, is considering a radical package of reforms which could have a wide-ranging effect on policing. They say such changes would also affect changes to the criminal justice system likely to follow the report of the Royal Commission in June.

Among the ideas said to be favoured by Mr Clarke include replacing police authorities - currrently comprising two-thirds councillors and one-third magistrates - with centrally appointed boards, making the police wholly Home Office-funded instead of the current 50-50 local/national split, and merging some smaller forces.

John Burrow, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and Chief Constable of Essex, told a press conference yesterday that Mr Clarke was 'a man in a hurry' and it was feared his plans could be announced within weeks. Acpo has now written to Mr Clarke seeking more consultation.

He said: 'These plans have been drawn up in the corridors of Queen Anne's Gate (the Home Office). We have not been involved.' Although Mr Clarke had announced an inquiry into police pay, nothing similar had been launched over structure.

The Home Office is committed to legislation in 1993-4 to incorporate both the work of the present Royal Commission on Criminal Justice and the Sheehy inquiry into pay. The changes under consideration by the Home Office must now be at an advanced stage.

'We are making this stand to get our proposals on to the agenda,' Mr Burrow said. 'We are not opposed to certain changes, but we are concerned about the extent and timing.'

Centrally appointed boards and 100 per cent central funding would alter the public perception of locally accountable policing: 'It will be a question of who pays the piper, calls the tune.'

The appointment of businessmen to the boards could have wider implications; such people were more likely to be concerned about value for money rather than the quality of policing. The amalgamation of forces should also be carried out on a more logical basis than simple force strengths or population areas.

David Shattock, Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, said after the press conference: 'At the moment, we are implementing many internal reforms such as devolving power to local commanders. When the Royal Commission reports, there will be changes as a consequence of that which will be in response to genuine public concern. Are we to prejudice that by devoting all our resources to managing structural change at the same time?'

Amid reports of divisions in the Cabinet on the changes, Mr Clarke is due to meet John Major tomorrow, when it is believed the possible changes will be discussed. The Home Office emphasised yesterday that all proposals were still at an early stage and no firm decisions had yet been taken.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there