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Doubts voiced over police merger

PUBLISHED: 11:02 26 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:58 03 July 2010

OPPOSITION to a merger between Norfolk and Suffolk police appears to be growing despite promised multi-million-pound savings.

Secret talks between the two forces were revealed for the first time last week with Norfolk police insisting a voluntary merger would save the forces up to £43m each year, on a combined budget of £257m, allowing more investment in the frontline.

OPPOSITION to a merger between Norfolk and Suffolk police appears to be growing despite promised multi-million-pound savings.

Secret talks between the two forces were revealed for the first time last week with Norfolk police insisting a voluntary merger would save the forces up to £43m each year, on a combined budget of £257m, allowing more investment in the frontline. This is the equivalent of between 800 and 1,200 new officers.

But the insistence of Norfolk chiefs that it is the most viable long-term plan has been rebutted by their Suffolk counterparts who met on Friday and say the potential benefits have not been proven.

Meanwhile, the Norfolk branch of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, says that questions about how a merger would work in practice remain unanswered.

Gulshan Kayembe, chairman of the Suffolk Police Authority, said there was not “sufficient evidence” to indicate what the savings from merging would be.

She added: “My question is that we may have savings but when would we start to see those savings? It is about being clear in our heads as to how sure we are about the kinds of savings that we would get.

“There is nothing to back that up at the moment and we are a bit baffled as to where Norfolk gets this £43m saving from.”

“Quite frankly it does not make sense. What does make sense is to continue collaboration.”

Mrs Kayembe said the overall costs of merging the two forces would be huge. She also said it would cost millions to equalise the police's part of the council tax as people in Norfolk pay higher council tax for policing than Suffolk's residents.

The two forces have been collaborating on various projects over the last two years, for example a joint major investigations team, and will look to continue this.

Home Office proposals to merge Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire police forces collapsed in 2006. Since then a joint panel of experts from both forces has been looking at ways in which the forces could work more closely.

Norfolk Police Authority chairman Stephen Bett remains convinced it is the way forward, adding: “Suffolk want to go at a pace which is unacceptable to Norfolk.”

Malcolm Sneesby, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Police Federation, said: “We have no difficulty with collaboration at all - it makes a lot of sense.

“As for an all-out merger, we would need more information on how it would work.

“The potential savings are huge but we need to look at exactly how these resources would be used. The initial costs of setting this up would also be huge.

“There is also an issue of public expectations. The people of Norfolk want a police force run by Norfolk people.

“Inevitably there would be conflicting demands for resources in certain areas on a day-to-day basis and we would need to ensure that one area was not getting the raw end of the deal.”


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