June 20, 2006

"No need for mergers to beat terror"

Comment from North Wales Daily Post
Bad policies rarely die. Instead they just fade away.

This, we very much hope, is fate that awaits the spectacularly unpopular plan to merge the four police forces of Wales.

The plan's chief architect, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, is gone, having failed to devote himself to the more pressing matter of resolving the shambles that is the immigration service.

His successor has already developed a better understanding of the priorities in his "dysfunctional" department..

So the question is: will the consolidation of policing in England and Wales sit on the back burner only long enough for John Reid to resolve the asylum crisis?

There is a note of quiet optimism in the responses to the Home Secretary's statement that a Parliament order will not now be used to drive through the merger.

Instead he has offered further talks over the summer with the North Wales force, police authority and local politicians.

At the very least, he will be hoping this course of action will draw the sting from the threat of a judicial review if the shake-up was railroaded through Parliament.

This approach is far removed from the disgraceful course taken by Mr Clarke in riding roughshod over public opinion.

Dr Reid might be a blunt fellow but he does feel the democratic pressure of responding to public opinion, articulated by newspapers such as this.

And this is our best hope that all the dangers inherent in a merger of the four forces will be addressed, meaning that the prospect of a pan-Wales force is no longer inevitable.

But it would also be wrong to believe that the endgame should be to hold out for a completely unchanged police structure.

Yes, the idea of "one force" with one chief constable totally ignores geography, communication and demographic factors, both within Wales and in relation to English forces over the border everywhere from Queensferry to Cardiff.

But North Wales needs to demonstrate that it can develop formal working relationships to pool resources with its neighbouring forces, so that if worst excesses of organised crime - or the nightmare of terrorism - come our way, this efficient but small force can quickly and effectively summon support to deal with them.
More welsh voices are saying that merging is not the answer, but if there is to be a merger this would be the wrong one.

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