Following the publication of the latest Home Affairs Committee report ‘Evaluating the New Architecture of Policing’, Kevin Hurley, Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey said:
“With budget pressures beginning to push some smaller police forces to the brink of collapse and forcing others to slash jobs and service levels, the case for mergers gets ever stronger. What an unforgivable misuse of public money it is to prolong this system of 43 different forces, each with their own expensive HQs, Chief Officer teams and PCCs whilst front line services – response, neighbourhoods, traffic, public protection to name just a few – are being cut back to the bone.
“Chief Constables support mergers. The most senior police officer in the land, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, supports mergers. Today the Home Affairs Committee has indicated their view that there is a case for mergers to be allowed in some instances.
“Ask the public what they want from the police. I do it for a living and I can tell you that no-one tells me they want more Chiefs or politicians or expensive headquarters. People tell me they want more police out there on the front line, getting after criminals, solving cases and helping victims.
“When people call the police in an emergency, they have two concerns – will they get here quickly and will they solve my problem? Keeping the 43 forces leeches money from the front line and hinders, not helps, the police’s ability to address those concerns. No-one has ever turned away police assistance in their hour of need because they have the wrong badge on their hats.
“The big obstacle to mergers is the wide disparities in funding arrangements between forces, with some much more dependent on local ratepayers and others much better funded by central Government. Mergers won’t happen without strong leadership from the Home Secretary and Chancellor to deal with that issue and put the funding forward to allow forces to equalise what residents in different counties pay for their policing in their council tax.
“Over the next few years we are facing the loss of more than 30,000 police officers and staff in this country, on top of the many thousands already gone. There is up to £2 billion to be saved every year by merging forces, money that could go back into the front line services that keep us safe. It would mean potentially tens of thousands more officers out there working for the public. It would mean we could invest seriously in training and equipment to make our officers and staff more effective. Ministers must heed the advice of the police experts, the needs of the public and seize that opportunity.”