June 04, 2006

Political challenges at the end of May

All eleven Surrey MPs wrote a joint letter to Dr Reid, calling on him to halt the proposal to merge Surrey and Sussex police. They said the merger would worsen funding for police in Surrey and make the force less accountable.

Lincolnshire Police Authority organised a text vote over the proposal to merge with the Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire forces. The police authority raised concerns, over funding, local accountability and timescales. Within a few days over 600 had voted, with more than 90% opposed.

More worringly for the government, Labour MP John Grogan highlighted the possible need for Commons votes. When the home secretary puts a statutory instrument before the Commons to authorise individual mergers, reported The Guardian, rebel MPs, with the aid of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, could demand a vote from the Speaker and potentially defeat the orders.

Ann Cryer described the government's proposal as a "real mish-mash", and said: "Count me in. If there is a way around it, I will certainly be voting against it."

The Guardian commented that
Victory for the rebels would leave the government's merger plans looking decidedly lop-sided, with some forces agreeing to amalgamation and others preferring to retain their stand-alone status.

Next April, strategic forces will be established covering Cumbria and Lancashire, the west midlands, Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside and the north-east. Even if the government wins its battle with the rebels, the earliest the Yorkshire and the Humber region could expect to set up its new force is one year later.

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