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Police force merger under discussion

PUBLISHED: 09:36 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:35 03 July 2010

THE possible merging of police forces in Norfolk and Suffolk was back in the spotlight last night after one of the country's most senior policemen called for the amalgamation of services to save money.

THE possible merging of police forces in Norfolk and Suffolk was back in the spotlight last night after one of the country's most senior policemen called for the amalgamation of services to save money.

Suffolk Police Authority is set to discuss the possibility of the county's force working more closely with others in the region when its board meets on Friday, which has reignited debate about the potential for more collaboration between Norfolk and Suffolk in the future.

Yesterday, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, added to the debate as he called for the merging of police forces to reduce costs at a time when police are facing serious budget cuts.

He said that although political will often seemed to be lacking, forces should amalgamate across geograph-ical boundaries to be more efficient.

Suffolk police turned down an approach by Norfolk to merge forces in May this year, claiming there was no evidence that estimated savings of £43m could be produced, but Suffolk Police Authority is now considering collaborating with other forces to combat organised crime, terrorism and public order offences.

The possibility of merging police forces has been on the cards for several years and sparked debate when Norwich South MP Charles Clarke, then home secretary, suggested linking forces, including Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire police, back in April 2006.

A report for Suffolk Police Authority's meeting this Friday said that further collaboration would "represent a significant reduction in costs for Suffolk constabulary", but the news that a merger might be back on the cards in Norfolk and Suffolk was faced some opposition yesterday.

Matt Gould, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “We fully understand the necessity for economies of scale, but we are concerned about frontline services.

“At the moment, it is collaboration, but not desperately far across the horizon we can see a merger.”

Norfolk Police Federation chairman Malcolm Sneesby said: “Some local collaboration, no doubt, makes sense, but I'm not sure how far that can go before it becomes amalgamation under a different name.

“If the government wants to go down the route of mergers and amalgamation, they have to look at it properly and plan it and accept that in the early days it will cost a lot.

“I don't particularly like the idea of amalgamation here, but if it is ever going to be done, it needs to be done properly on a national basis, rather than picking out cuts for one or two smaller forces here and there.”

The two forces already share a major incident team and witness protection unit. If the new proposals are approved, the collaboration could be extended to include other services including technical support, an undercover unit and a regional investigation team, to be rolled out between 2010 and 2012.

No one at Norfolk Police Authority was available for comment.

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