Police merger ‘dead in the water’

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

The police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said a merger between her force and a neighbouring authority was “dead in the water.”

Alison Hernandez, who represents Devon and Cornwall, said she could not support the business case for her area joining up with Dorset. A “strategic alliance” was set up in 2015 to save £12m and, if agreed, a merger could have gone through by 2020. Ms Hernandez said if a crime panel also disagreed, the plan would be rejected.

That meeting takes place on 5th October, and if it backs her, she says Devon & Cornwall Police will not be merging with Dorset. Ms Hernandez said all four parties involved, the PCCs and the chief constables for both police authority areas, had to be unanimous in their decision and if one of them disagreed, no business case would be submitted to the Home Office and the plan would have to be shelved.

She said Devon and Cornwall Police would not benefit from a merger because council tax would have to rise to bring it in line with the level charged in Dorset.

“No matter what, you’ve got to get this precept level on your council tax the same in both forces,” she said. “If you were to harmonise, it means that Dorset could end up paying less, and we could end up paying more, and it would break even and make no cash. So we would have paid more, and get no cash to invest.”

During the summer, Devon and Cornwall’s chief constable Shaun Sawyer said the merger may not be in the best interest of communities if people had to pay more “but get less or the same” service.

If the merger was backed, it would be the first of amalgamation of English constabularies since the current 43-force structure was established, creating the fifth largest police force in the country.

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