June 19, 2006

Reid "delays" police mergers

John Reid says he is delaying plans to merge police forces in England and Wales until the autumn, reports everyone including the BBC.
He told MPs he believed mergers were still "the right way" forward, but he promised further discussions before laying any orders to enforce them.

However, the "voluntary" merger of Cumbria and Lancashire can proceed.
The Association of Police Authorities welcomed the delay. The Tories called for the merger plans to be scrapped. In other reaction:
The Cleveland Police Authority, which has opposed the merging of Cleveland with the Durham and Northumbria forces, said it was not surprised by the announcement.

Councillor Dave McLuckie, chair of the authority, said: "I do not believe anyone will be really surprised by John Reid's announcement that the original timetable laid down by Charles Clarke is to be abandoned.

"It was always unrealistic and undeliverable - and we have been trying to tell ministers and civil servants that was the case since last year."

The Welsh Assembly Government, which has complained about the pace of the merger of Wales's four forces, welcomed Mr Reid's announcement of a delay.

Wales's Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart said: "The chief constables, chairs of the police authorities in Wales and I have been pressing both the current and former Home Office ministers to review the timetable and I am delighted that they have now done so."

David Warcup, deputy chief constable of Northumbria Police, said: "In Northumbria we welcomed the opportunity offered by a single strategic force for the North East and will continue to support this process.

"The destination has been made clear but we will be seeking clarification about timescales and will be pressing ministers to give us a decision at the earliest opportunity."
In the west Midlands, Mercia Police Authority welcomed the statement. And a joint statement by the chief constables and police authority chairs for the Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Midlands forces welcomed the announcement.
Diana Holl-Allen, chair of West Midlands Police Authority, said: "We are pleased the home secretary has acknowledged the need to ensure that the concerns of authorities and forces on a range of issues, including cost, council tax and local accountability, still need to be addressed."
Labour MP Gisela Stuart, whose local West Midlands police force is in favour of a merger, urged Mr Reid not to consult too long, saying uncertainty was as difficult to deal with as change.

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