July 11, 2006

No police force mergers

The Times reports that "Plans for a £1 billion merger of police forces across England and Wales have collapsed.... John Reid, the Home Secretary, is expected to announce the decision tomorrow." Full text in the post below.

What seems to have happened is that the voluntary merger collapsed through lack of money, so it looks pretty clear that the unwanted ones won't go ahead. Charles Clarke called the decision "weak".

We are not surprised. There had been no political preparation for this policy, which proved to be unpopular. Plenty of people saw themselves as losers, and hardly any as winners.

It also emerged that there would not be enough new money to cover the substantial costs.

Charles Clarke seems to have proposed this policy on a whim without thinking it through. Now the decision to scrap the policy for England and Wales has been taken by a politician from a Scottish constituency.

Graham Booth MEP, the UKIP spokesman on regional Government, said, "This is marvellous news. It is a great victory for county police forces and local people. The United Kingdom Independence Party has campaigned against these ideas ever since the Government proposed them. We are all delighted that the powers that be have finally seen sense".

UKIP added

The planned merger was all part of the Government's attempt to create regional power structures on the lines of EU planning. Having been heavily defeated by the 'North East says No' campaign against an elected regional assembly, John Prescott's department concocted the idea of police mergers. By removing police out of County Council authority, the Government could then have claimed that elected regional assemblies were necessary to correct a deliberate democratic oversight. These plans are now in ruins.
Mr Booth pointed out: "We must not get complacent and rest on our laurels. The Government still has plans to regionalise ambulance services, and has no intention of slowing down its drive to create regional power bases. The regional assemblies must be stopped, they are unelected, unwanted and unnecessary". And, one might add, they cost taxpayers money.

The debate over these proposals has exposed police forces' performance to greater scrutiny, as police forces and authorities sought local public support for their stances. Hopefully this will lead to greater local accountability of the police - the opposite of what these reforms would have achieved.

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