June 20, 2006

Sussex county councillor sets out objections

Partly it's the usual reaction welcoming the delay in the merger proposals, reported here.

But he usefully sets out the Council's objections, which may be a useful checklist for campaigners elsewhere. In his words:

First, the serious question of cost. It has been estimated it will take £20m merely to merge the Information Technology in Surrey and Sussex.

And how will this affect Project Nemesis, Sussex Police's £2.3m crime and intelligence computer system, the installation of which is already two years behind schedule?

Add to the IT costs, re-branding and staff reorganisation and the potential expenditure is enormous. In the drive for a quick result, we believe the costs have not really been properly thought through.

Downing Street's own strategy unit has warned mergers would be expensive and disruptive. This contradicts claims made by Dr Reid's predecessor that the benefits of merging will outweigh costs.

Second, the threat to neighbourhood policing. Only two weeks ago, the Association of Chief Police Officers (APCO) warned that 500 front-line jobs could go if the two forces were merged.

It is not difficult to see how damaging this could be to Sussex Police policy of moving towards neighbourhood policing, which is a major way of increasing public reassurance.

Third, the impact on the council taxpayer. Surrey Police charges its communities a lot more than Sussex Police. A merged force could mean as much as a 20 per cent hike in the Police Authority charge to residents of West Sussex. That is just not acceptable.

Fourth, the lack of accountability. A merged force would be more remote from the communities it serves, so less aware of local policing priorities and would have a potentially weaker public representation on its Authority.

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