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Minister says he would be 'irresponsible' to ignore good merger cases

Calls to reduce number of forces to save money

If there is support for a reduction in the number of police forces, the Policing Minister says he would be “irresponsible” to ignore it.

Chief Supt Gavin Thomas, President of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales believes that the current force arrangements are “sub-optimal” with collaboration often being used to cover this.

At the association's annual conference Chief Supt Tim Innes, of South Yorkshire Police, forcefully made the same case to minister Nick Hurd.

“I think there's a general frustration certainly among colleagues that the government still seems wedded to 43 forces, there's never any proper comment around that,” he said.

“I welcome the fact that you want to engage more with the NPCC and the association around what you think policing needs to look like but there is a wealth of evidence out there that tells us, not least the Stevens Report, HMIC […] every year telling us what's not working.

“I think historically the current administration has thought it was the NPCC's job to make that determination which is why we're in the mess we're in around collaboration and the sheer postcode lottery that the public shouldn't have to suffer.”

He added: “Isn't it time that the government and Home Office took their own responsibilities seriously around this and actually understood that there is a need at the centre to formally review the state of 43 forces and properly look at how they can achieve proper efficiencies and effectiveness?

“Not just by slashing budgets and hoping for the best but by actually structurally reforming policing because there isn't a person in this room who thinks that 43 forces feels or looks efficient and the public certainly don't get the benefit from that.”

Mr Hurd replied that while the Home Office holds the purse strings, it has tried to encourage devolution.

He added: “I will be personally very interested in absorbing the views in the system about the efficiency of the current system and whether it is sub-optimal or not.

“If I get that message loud and clear it would be irresponsible of me to ignore it. I would not be surprised if over the next few months or years proposals did not come forward for rationalisation.

“We will look at that and support it if there's a good case. Our instinct, which is there to be challenged, is to support and encourage devolution and respond to what feels right locally.”

Speaking to Police Oracle afterwards, Chief Supt Thomas said: “If you're going to give 43 different organisations a mandate as they have with police and crime commissioners it is going to be very difficult to get a collegial, cohesive approach to saying we actually do need to restructure it because what you're doing is dismantling and disempowering.

“For this conundrum, central government has a significant role to play."

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