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Labour vows to end ‘nonsense’ of having 43 police forces in England and Wales

Labour vows to end ‘nonsense’ of having 43 police forces in England and Wales

🕔18.Jun 2014

Moves to merge some police forces in England and Wales will be back on the political agenda if Labour wins the General Election.

Jack Dromey, Shadow Police Minister, told the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) conference that money saved by cutting the number of forces would be used to restore neighbourhood policing, which in many areas has fallen victim to spending cuts since 2010.

It was “nonsense” to continue with the “inefficiency” of 43 separate forces, Mr Dromey insisted.

Proposals to merge police forces have proved highly contentious in the past.

Attempts by Conservative governments between 1979 and 1997 to merge some of the country’s smaller forces were dropped following a huge backlash by the police and public, particularly in Tory-voting shire counties.

Similar attempts by Labour in 2006 to merge forces were also dropped following opposition.

The most likely candidates in the Midlands for mergers are Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and West Mercia.

Warwickshire and West Mercia are already working together to deliver joint local policing, protective services and finance.

Mr Dromey (Lab Erdington) promised the ACPO conference in Harrogate that there would be fewer than 43 forces by the end of the party’s term in government, if Labour wins the General Election.

He also hinted Labour could abolish police and crime commissioners in England and Wales and introduce a new form of governance – although he stopped short of committing to the proposal.

Mr Dromey said: “It is nonsense to continue with 43 separate forces in England and Wales – it has been said to me time and time again that it is the enemy of operational effectiveness. It is certainly the enemy of efficiency.

“At the end of the first term of a Labour government there would not be 43 forces.”

Mr Dromey said that Labour’s plans to raise funds to bolster neighbourhood policing are currently being put together.

He added that the neighbourhood policing policy – introduced by a previous Labour administration – had been successful but had been placed under threat by the cuts of the coalition Government.

Promising to “stand up for the best of British policing”, Mr Dromey accepted that the police would not always support the policies of a future Labour government.

Mr Dromey paid tribute to the “convincing proposals” put forward in Lord Stevens’ independent commission into the future of policing.

The former Metropolitan Police commissioner was appointed by Labour to carry out a comprehensive investigation in 2012, which involved the consultation of several international law enforcement professionals.

There were compelling arguments in Lord Stevens’ recommendations to reduce the numbers of forces as well as abolishing the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and creating a new body, Mr Dromey told ACPO representatives.

In his report, Lord Stevens said the present system of 43 forces in England and Wales “creates unnecessary duplication” and often gets in the way of joint “cross border” operations by police. The report stated: “The Commission makes a clear recommendation that change is essential and believes there are three serious options.

“These are locally-negotiated mergers and collaboration agreements, a co-ordinated amalgamation into approximately ten regional forces, or the creation of a national police service.”

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