Police merger row continues

PUBLISHED: 11:20 23 March 2006 | UPDATED: 13:20 04 May 2010

CAMBRIDGESHIRE police look almost certain to be forced into a union with Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies in two years time - to the fury of the county s politicians. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has given the three counties police authorities just t

CAMBRIDGESHIRE police look almost certain to be forced into a union with Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies in two years' time - to the fury of the county's politicians.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has given the three counties' police authorities just two weeks - until April 7 - to respond to the merger proposal.

He said a review last year had revealed "stark shortcomings in the current arrangements' ability to meet the policing needs of the early 21st Century".

He added that he would be inviting representatives from the three forces and three police authorities to co-operate in "taking forward the option for policing which I believe will be of greatest benefits to their communities.

"My vision for the police service in the 21st Century is that it should be close, responsive and accountable to the communities it serves, supported by larger forces with the capacity and specialist expertise to protect the public from wider threats, such as serious and organised crime."

And that is exactly what it will not achieve, believes Cambridgeshire County Council leader, Cllr Keith Walters.

"It has all the hallmarks of a paper that started off with conclusions and has been trying madly to justify them," he said.

The authority's chairman, Michael Williamson, accepts the need for cross-boundary collaboration on serious crime. But he believes that could be achieved by formal federal arrangements between neighbouring forces - not just Norfolk and Suffolk, but Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire.

At the same time, retaining Cambridgeshire as a stand-alone force - which has seen significant reductions in crime and increases in detection rates recently - would protect community policing, he says.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence, said: "Whatever the final outcome, we want to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible policing service for people in Cambridgeshire.

"Whether we are a county force or form part of a new strategic force, that will remain our prime focus."

Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, said: "An amalgamated force might look neat on a civil servant's map but there is no evidence that it will cut crime or make people feel safer.

"My constituents want to see a police presence which is locally accessible, knowledgeable and accountable. They recognise that the vast majority of crime in this area is committed by local people against their neighbours and they want effective community policing to deal with it.

"There has been no groundswell of support for the Home Secretary's proposal which, rather than strengthen the vital bonds between local people and the police, would undermine them."

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Will the merger of three forces bring about more efficiencies or spread resources too thinly?

Write to: The Ely Standard (Police Merger) 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS or email the editor at: debbie.davies@archant.co.uk

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