June 04, 2006

The end of May - legal challenges loom

By the end of May, the government was facing the prospect of challenges in the courts and in the Commons.

On the legal front, Cleveland Police Authority announced it wanted a judicial review of the plan to combine its force with Durham and Northumbria. The force wanted the Home Office to postpone the plans for a year and pursue other options, including better cross-border co-operation between forces. The Chief Constable said
The people of my area don’t want to go into a superforce structure. There is still no idea of how much it is going to cost nor where the money is going to come from.

We have to lose staff in order to make it happen and we can’t get any idea of what is going to happen to staff if they are not part of the new structures.
Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Sir Stuart Bell, commented, "A political solution whereby John Reid looks for alternative solutions is a better course of action".

The BBC report added
Other police authorities opposed to mergers may take legal action as well.

West Mercia will decide in the next few days on a course of action and Essex will do so later next month.

There is also the possibility of a challenge by local councils in the West Midlands, who are concerned about the impact on council taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly for Wales - where four forces could combine - has sought legal advice over the plans.
And the Liberal Democrats called the merger plans "damaging and unpopular". The party's home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said the legal action was "yet another nail in the coffin of the government's ill-thought-out proposals".

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