Opposition is growing to police merger plans
POLICE chiefs have criticised plans to reduce six police forces in the east of England to two. Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced on Monday that Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex will merge, as will Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. But Hertfo
POLICE chiefs have criticised plans to reduce six police forces in the east of England to two. Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced on Monday that Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex will merge, as will Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. But Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire police authorities have vowed to oppose the most radical police shake-up in 30 years. Just moments after the announcement, Hertfordshire police chiefs were at Westminster to hold talks with Mr Clarke. A spokesman said the meeting was to "explore the possibility of a mutually agreed approach". The Hertfordshire Police Authority is adamant that it is not willing to merge with Essex. A joint statement released by Herts, Beds and Essex police said: "Herts Constabulary currently believes that the best structure for delivering protective services while maintaining local accountability and providing greater efficiency would be a merger of Herts and Beds with Essex remaining as a stand-alone force." MP Oliver Heald has attacked the Government for "regionalisation" and has said the mergers "must be resisted". "People in Hertfordshire do not want their police force to be run from Chelmsford or Bedford," he said. "We are lucky to have a good police force in Herts, and although we could do with more boots on the street, I am sure the residents would be happier with their police force run from Herts, rather than miles away." The MP for North East Herts added: "The victims of this merger will be the rural areas, such as Royston, with all the money going into new regional headquarters and the towns." The Home Secretary believes the smaller police forces currently operating in the east of England have "stark shortcomings". In a statement he said: "My vision for police service in the 21st Century is that it should be close, responsive and accountable to the communities it serves, and supported by larger forces with the capacity and specialist expertise to protect the public from wider threats and organised crimes." Cambridge Police Authority has also spoken out against the mergers, which it has branded "elaborate, expensive and risky". Police authority chairman Michael Williamson said: "The police authority is naturally disappointed that a federal option will not be considered, as we feel that it would have been the most effective and economic solution from our point of view. "The police are firmly of the view that wholesale amalgamation, as now directed by the Home Secretary, is an over-elaborate, expensive, and risky way to face the challenge of Level two crime. "Such an amalgamation could distract our efforts to provide an efficient and effective policing service to the people of Cambridgeshire," he added. - Mr Clarke wants police authorities to respond to the announcement by April 7.