Three counties police force merger decision delayed

Thursday 27th September 2018 07:30 BST

A decision on whether to merge Devon and Cornwall Police with the Dorset force has been delayed, to allow more time for plans to be scrutinised.

The Chief Constables and police and crime commissioners of the two constabularies held talks on Tuesday, 26 September but did not reach a unanimous decision.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Alison Hernandez said her current view was not to support the submission of the business case to the Home Office.

Ms Hernandez said she was not convinced Devon and Cornwall Police would benefit from the merger because council tax in the two counties would have to be increased to match Dorset’s charges.

She will now be discussing the matter further with the Police and Crime Panel on Friday 5 October and a final decision will be made on Monday 8 October.

Ms Hernandez said: “Members of the Police and Crime Panel and councils have previously raised concerns about this proposal on the merger of the two police forces and were actually highly critical of the fact that the business case had not been seen and that they weren’t able to help me scrutinise that. So, I’ve now taken steps to enable them and the public at large to scrutinise the facts and figures behind these plans.

“They still have major concerns about whether this merger will be a good deal for the people of Devon and Cornwall and I do hear them loud and clear.

“The council tax issue is certainly difficult to overcome and I’m not convinced that the huge disruption that a merger would cause is worth the relatively minor savings it would deliver at a time when our communities want every officer to be completely focused on frontline policing.”

A Devon and Cornwall Police statement said: “The abridged version of the full business case for the proposed merger of Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police is being made available to staff and the public to allow greater scrutiny and transparency.

“Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, Devon & Cornwall Police, Chief Constable James Vaughan, Dorset Police, Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, discussed the business case on Tuesday 26 September during a productive Alliance Convergence Board meeting.

“Both chief constables and PCCs agreed the business case, but have not reached a unanimous decision about whether to submit it to the Home Office.

“The Devon and Cornwall PCC’s current view is not to support the submission of the business case to the Home Office and she will be taking it to the Police and Crime Panel meeting for further discussion on Friday 5 October.

“A final decision will be made on Monday 8 October after both Police and Crime Panels meetings, which are taking place within the next 10 days.

“Both chief constables and PCCs would like to thank everyone who has taken part in the engagement and provided feedback.”

Cornwall Council this week voiced its opposition to the proposed merger in a letter to Ms Hernandez.

Signed by Cornwall Council leader Adam Paynter and portfolio holder for environment and public protection Sue James, the letter raises ‘significant ongoing concerns’ about the impact any merger could have for residents of Cornwall.

It also says the Council has ‘severe reservations’ about the way the consultation into the proposed merger has been conducted, and that ‘very little evidence’ had published about any benefit’s to Cornwall’s residents.

The letter follows a cross-party debate by the Full Council on 11 September which led to a vote opposing the merger.

Cllr Paynter said: “The fact Ms Hernandez has listened to people’s concerns and is minded to opposed the merger is very welcome and I hope it goes some way to putting this matter to rest. Cornwall Council’s position is clear -we oppose this merger because we don’t think it is good for the people of Cornwall.

“There are too many unanswered questions, including a lack of transparency over how the Cornish policing precept would be spent in the future. There are fears funds could be focused on larger towns and cities in a wider force area and we don’t know what impact a merger would have on local policing in Cornwall.”

Cllr James said: “We don’t think this merger would benefit communities in Cornwall overall and there is too much we don’t know about the impact it would have. I believe many of the benefits put forward in the proposed merger could be achieved by the police and the council continuing to work collaboratively together, with fewer risks than merging the forces."

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