June 08, 2006

Coventry Council wants a judicial review

The Coventry Observer reports that

The city council has joined forces [er, could have phrased that better, guys] with three other councils to challenge Government plans to merge West Midlands Police with three neighbouring forces. Council chiefs believe the merger could cost city residents up to 40 per cent more for policing and has teamed up with councils in Birmingham, Solihull and Dudley to call for further consultation on the plans.

The Home Office announced in March the merger would go ahead and gave councils four months to register objections. But the restructuring could be implemented as soon as August next year.

The four councils now want a judicial review in the High Court to stop the Home Secretary from pressing ahead with the plans.

One of the main causes of the councils' concern is council tax bills will be forced up because of an increase in the police precept - the portion of the bill that police forces claim.

West Midlands taxpayers fork out less for policing than taxpayers living in the patches of the other forces included in the merger - Warwickshire, West Mercia and Staffordshire.

Coun Tony O'Neill, deputy leader of the city council, said the Government's plans were unfair to city residents. "We stand to gain the least from a merger and we stand to pay more," he added."The figure should be equalised down, but the Government is not prepared to do that."
Here's an interesting democratic dilemma. West Midlands Police support the merger. Local elected politicians - through whose councils the police precept comes - don't. And who did the Home Office consult, and whose opinions did the Home Office say would determine the timing of mergers?

Local voters, through their elected representatives? No, the police forces.

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