Further plans for Hertfordshire police collaborations

HERTFORDSHIRE Constabulary’s extensive collaboration programme with Bedfordshire continues apace, which raises the question: why didn’t the two forces merge when they had the chance?

“I’M not yet convinced, and it will take a lot of convincing, that a merger and the sacrifice of police in Hertfordshire is a step that is necessary.”

These were the words of Hertfordshire County Council leader Robert Gordon on July 16 last year, addressing the county’s police authority over a potential merger with Bedfordshire, which would save both forces an estimated �40m.

The proposals were eventually rejected by authority members in favour of a “deeper collaboration” between the two forces, prompted by a letter from police minister Nick Herbert on the eve of the meeting.

It would seem Mr Herbert’s advice has been heeded, with the latest joint operation between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire announced just last week.

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The new joint road policing unit will be launched this April, and follows several other similar collaborations, including a joint dog unit, scientific services unit and major crime unit.

Further collaboration is planned for the future – Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire are working towards establishing a Strategic Policing Alliance with Cambridgeshire, paving the way for three-force units expected to save up to �20m by 2015.

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So as Hertfordshire’s police services continue to stretch across the county border, it raises the question: why not just merge in the first place?

According to Hertfordshire Police Authority, there is a distinct difference between “collaboration” and “merger”. A full merger would mean neighbourhood police teams joining forces – something the authority does not want to happen.

“Collaboration provides the capacity and resources needed to maintain our support and specialist services, while protecting our local frontline officers and staff,” a spokeswoman said.

“This and other efficiency measures has enabled the authority to make a pledge to maintain neighbourhood policing teams across the county at their current levels for at least the next two years.”

When the merger was discussed back in July, Hertfordshire Constabulary’s chief constable Frank Whiteley was in favour of the move.

But the constabulary’s viewpoint would appeared to have changed since then.

A spokeswoman said this week there was no longer “an appetite” for a full merger.

“The momentum now is with collaborating every service apart from neighbourhood and intervention teams,” she said.

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