June 22, 2006

Robust message from Yorkshire

The Yorkshire Post reports that East Riding councillors are being urged to send a strong message to the Home Secretary by voting against moves to merge regional police forces.
Coun Graham Stroud, the chairman of Humberside Police Authority and an East Riding councillor, is now calling on politicians in the East Riding to back a motion to voice their opposition to the Home Office move at next week's meeting of East Riding Council, amid fears the changes will lead to the number of police officers on the streets being slashed.

Police authorities in the region have calculated a £36m funding black hole could emerge over five years and the money will have to be found out of existing budgets, leading to fewer police on the streets.

And they say set-up costs alone could be in the region of £60m – £21m more than Home Office consultants suggest. The Home Office has said it will pay what it estimates set-up costs to be, leaving, opponents say, £57m to be found.

Coun Stroud said: "Fifty-seven million pounds at this stage is not good news for people who want good policing. If we have to find money out of existing budgets something will have to give – and what it amounts to in the end is fewer police officers.

"Eighty per cent of all money spent on policing goes on staffing costs – that gives an indication of the likely impact."

He accepted there had to be change to combat modern threats but not by dismantling the entire police force.

Coun Stroud said: "I recognise that policing needs to change to cope with the increasing threat from major and organised crime, terrorism and extremism.

"However, I do not believe it is necessary to dismantle the police service to achieve it. National and regional problems could be dealt with on that basis, but local policing should remain under the control of local police forces.

"Many chief constables and police authorities favour a federal approach which would involve each force taking responsibility for particular aspects of policing in the region without merging forces."

That could mean West Yorkshire leading on terrorism threats or South Yorkshire on road policing. Another suggestion was extending the remit of the newly created Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

Although Home Secretary John Reid has delayed the process, Coun Stroud thinks it is only a matter of time before it is raised again. "There is a strong suspicion that it is back-door regionalisation. They lost the battle in the North-East so they are having a go through policing and elsewhere."
Humberside Police Authority, as well as those in West and South Yorkshire, has already voted against the plan, which would create one force of 13,000 officers.

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