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Former merger candidate forces roll back strategic alliance


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Integration now brought down further, to below ACC level.

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Warwickshire Police and West Mercia cars feature both force's badges. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Two forces who had been discussed as candidates for a merger have scaled back their integration.

Warwickshire and West Mercia Police announced a formal “strategic alliance” in 2012 and had been merged at all levels below deputy chief constable in recent years.

West Mercia's former PCC Bill Longmore had been sympathetic to the idea of a full-blown merger.

But this month further separation has taken place with two assistant chief constables moving back to working for just one force each.

Chief Supt Charlie Hill, who serves both forces, told the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales Conference on Wednesday: “We've moved away from a strategic alliance, in my view, to a collaboration around protective services, finance and enabling services.

“Frankly we need some real leadership from chief officers and PCCs to step up to the mark and say I'm prepared to give up sovereignty and move forward. Two FTSE 100 companies do not merge and have two chairmen, two chief execs, two deputy chief execs.”

He was speaking on the morning that Dorset Police along with Devon and Cornwall Police announced they are exploring the possibility of merging.

The existence of too many constabularies was a recurring topic throughout the staff association's conference this week, with PSAEW President Chief Supt Gavin Thomas raising it before the Policing Minister said he will listen if there are good arguments for them.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton, chairman of the NPCC, said that her working group had ruled out arguing for larger, fewer forces as part of its 2025 policing strategy, despite being in favour, because she didn't think it was widely achievable.

“Fewer, larger forces is not going to happen, politically it is just not an option,” she said. She pointed out problems including different council tax levels in neighbouring force areas.

In a joint statement, Warwickshire Chief Constable Martin Jelley and West Mercia Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said they remain fully committed to their alliance, and said it is “continually developing”.

“Part of any healthy development means continual review of our collaborative arrangements and the introduction of the ACC for each force is to ensure greater focus on local issues, partnerships and performance across the diverse landscape of our alliance.

“We are very proud of the fact that our alliance has been and continues to remain one of the leading collaborative working arrangements between police forces in the country which has been commended and recognised by HMIC.”

Their statement added that there are still “two clear and differing force identities” and the arrangement is “providing the very best service to our communities”.

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It makes a lot of common sense to merge forces- economies of scale, standard operating procedures, efficiency gains etc

But in reality, mergers are often a blunt instrument that are highly disruptive, fail to deliver savings, lower morale and are a distraction to the task at hand.

The real focus should be on continuing to to form strategic allowances and to standardise procedures and processes, such as IT systems, crime reporting and even paperwork.

So much focus goes on looking at organisational form, rather than investing time and effort to provide better support to make Officers be able to be more efficient on the front line.

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I think that the last merger in that area was about 30 years plus ago when West Mercia came about by the merging of Shropshire, Herefordshire,  Worcestershire, Telford and Wrekin. 

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I think that the last merger in that area was about 30 years plus ago when West Mercia came about by the merging of Shropshire, Herefordshire,  Worcestershire, Telford and Wrekin. 

Typo or time flies? West Mercia was formed in the big round of mergers in 1967 - 50 years ago.
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On the face of it mergers seem like a good idea. But this is one of a few that have been scaled back. Others haven't made the press.

 

Maybe the reality is that it just doesn't work, or the procurement of IT systems, financial systems etc mean that individual forces are tied into long term contracts.

 

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The rumours are that senior officers don't want to do themselves out of a job. I've never heard/seen anyone put some substance to that. It's probably more likely that financial structures and "accounts" of forces prevents them, at present, from merging more. There are legislative factors as well, of course. N

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Mergers amongst county policing can be a good thing but the loss of community policing/focus and complete breakdown in specialist law enforcement duties (that are vital) usually results from mergers.

I've said it plenty of times but what Britain needs is more specialist policing and a return to a more community focused model.

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I've said it plenty of times but what Britain needs is more specialist policing and a return to a more community focused model.


Completely agree. The challenge would be to merge but still retain the vital neighbourhood policing functions.
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1 hour ago, Mac7 said:

 


Completely agree. The challenge would be to merge but still retain the vital neighbourhood policing functions.

I don't personally see what the big fuss/focus is for wanting a merger.

See Police Scotland, it's effectively fallen to pieces and is far too close to its central government for comfort - the major issue I have with mergers is that they tend to end up with a poorer level of policing being conducted on the ground, especially for areas with a lower population or specialist industry/environments. 

We seem to be against giving other organisations policing responsibility for their areas of specialism yet we see this works in plenty of other areas - in some US states housing/residential associations have the ability to form their own mini-police departments which otherwise would fall on the nearby county/state to provide. I cannot see the issue (so long as the oversight was in place) to allow for this to be the case here.

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I'm all for strategic police forces Radman like BTP/MOD/Ports etc.

But at a HO level there is absolutely no reason that as a corporate brand (yes I just vomited in my mouth) the Police can't be a national or, at very least, a broader regional entity.

Remove 42 Chief Constables, 42 HR departments, 42 finance departments...42 layers of bureaucracy.

We already see variations between BCUs to accommodate local issues/nuances.

Local accountability is usually managed at a local authority/parliamentary level in the main anyway...because within each county you have huge differences. In Kent for example the accountability of the heavily populated urban/suburban North Division is in stark contrast to that of the less populated semi-rural/rural West Division. 

There is absolutely no reason why resources and policing cannot be targeted at a local level by larger forces.

There's more benefit to Mergers though than just cash.

The UK is a smaller place than it was in the 70s when the last major police force boundary reform was conducted.

Frankly the ability of forces to accurately, and in a time critical fashion, address crime crossing county lines is seriously hampered.

It's not uncommon at all in Kent for suspects to live in or frequent the Metropolis. Yet it can take me hours or in less serious circumstances days to get information about them, children, previous incidents, safeguarding issues and the like.

I really can't see an argument for keeping small county forces. Local accountability already and would continue to rest on the shoulders of each respective district commander.

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11 hours ago, MerseyLLB said:

I'm all for strategic police forces Radman like BTP/MOD/Ports etc.

But at a HO level there is absolutely no reason that as a corporate brand (yes I just vomited in my mouth) the Police can't be a national or, at very least, a broader regional entity.

Remove 42 Chief Constables, 42 HR departments, 42 finance departments...42 layers of bureaucracy.

We already see variations between BCUs to accommodate local issues/nuances.

Local accountability is usually managed at a local authority/parliamentary level in the main anyway...because within each county you have huge differences. In Kent for example the accountability of the heavily populated urban/suburban North Division is in stark contrast to that of the less populated semi-rural/rural West Division. 

There is absolutely no reason why resources and policing cannot be targeted at a local level by larger forces.

There's more benefit to Mergers though than just cash.

The UK is a smaller place than it was in the 70s when the last major police force boundary reform was conducted.

Frankly the ability of forces to accurately, and in a time critical fashion, address crime crossing county lines is seriously hampered.

It's not uncommon at all in Kent for suspects to live in or frequent the Metropolis. Yet it can take me hours or in less serious circumstances days to get information about them, children, previous incidents, safeguarding issues and the like.

I really can't see an argument for keeping small county forces. Local accountability already and would continue to rest on the shoulders of each respective district commander.

This is where my two tiered argument comes into play. 

I work closely with my local authority to tackle what can only be described as chronic asb issues within my city centre - one of the biggest moans the council has at the moment is its reliance on the local HO force to conduct actual enforcement duties on the worst of the people causing the most problems... It frankly isnt being done thanks to higher priorities elsewhere.

Local Authorities should have not only the ability (they do already) but the encouragement from central government to utilise these powers and take responsibility of their fair share of policing and enforcement - there is far too much reliance on the HO to get basic policing duties done so much so that we have been used to not having these basic duties conducted for a fair long while now.

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5 minutes ago, Radman said:

This is where my two tiered argument comes into play. 

I work closely with my local authority to tackle what can only be described as chronic asb issues within my city centre - one of the biggest moans the council has at the moment is its reliance on the local HO force to conduct actual enforcement duties on the worst of the people causing the most problems... It frankly isnt being done thanks to higher priorities elsewhere.

Local Authorities should have not only the ability (they do already) but the encouragement from central government to utilise these powers and take responsibility of their fair share of policing and enforcement - there is far too much reliance on the HO to get basic policing duties done so much so that we have been used to not having these basic duties conducted for a fair long while now.

Where there's a will there's a way :smileys-police-387259:

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