Police rebel against Clarke's plan to create 12 'strategic forces'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Police have rebelled against government plans to merge the 43 police authorities in England and Wales to create 12 "strategic forces", the most dramatic change to policing in 30 years.

The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, had set a deadline of today to receive full plans from every authority. But not one will meet the deadline - despite his offer of financial incentives for forces agreeing to merge.

Bob Jones, of the Association of Police Authorities (APA), said: "No police authorities have submitted full business cases to the Home Office. Charles Clarke's offer of financial inducements to police authorities that agree before Christmas to voluntary mergers was an attempt to divide and rule. It discriminated against those police authorities who believe this complex matter should not be rushed.

"We are keen for further talks, aimed at ensuring financial support is available to all police authorities able to show their preferred option will enhance policing. We are also urgently seeking to establish that the costs of restructuring will not fall on council taxpayers."

The APA staged a major rebellion over the plans last week, accusing Mr Clarke of trying to "bribe" forces into submission. The organisation said mergers would cost £600m to implement.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are grateful to everyone for the work they have done over the past three months. We recognise there will be a need for further discussions and we will be working closely with all forces and authorities in January."

Only 13 forces - less than a third of the current structure - said they wanted to take part in a merger, according to APA figures released last night. Thirteen more said they wanted to remain as "standalone" forces while another 15 have so far not expressed a preference. The reform programme does not apply to the Metropolitan or City of London police forces.

Earlier in the day there was disagreement over a plan to merge four Midlands police forces to establish the second biggest constabulary in England and Wales. The West Midlands, Staffordshire and Warwickshire forces all backed a four-way merger including West Mercia Police. But West Mercia declined to sign up, declaring it wanted to remain a standalone force.

Police sources said ministers had instructed force leaders to borrow money to meet the costs of reorganisation.Computer systems would have to be restructured and uniforms, vehicles and police stations rebranded costing millions of pounds.