MP: ‘No to merger of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police’
A MERGER between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police forces would make them less accountable to local residents, an MP has warned.
Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has launched a campaign against any potential merger between the two constabularies.
Although there is no firm proposal yet, police chiefs are putting together a business case, expected to be complete by the summer, in support of a two county ‘super-force’.
It is understood they have predicted significant cost savings – something Mr Shapps disputes.
He told the WHT that history had shown such mergers did not usually achieve the desired savings, and a lack of local accountability could mean the police are less responsive to local concerns.
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He said: “Merging the forces will shift the police further away from the people they serve.
“That makes the police less accountable to residents and their elected representatives.
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“It could also mean our frontline policing being focussed on urban areas like Luton while our own neighbourhoods are left out.”
Mr Shapps said: “Unfortunately advantages from this proposed merger aren’t clear at all, with no realistic savings figures. The costs of merging are high, the returns uncertain and the risks very real.
“While I can see every reason to combine back office functions to make efficiency savings and share specialist training, merging frontline police with Bedfordshire could easily be a disaster for our own county and distance the police from the communities that they serve.”
A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Police Authority said: “We are acutely aware of the need to consider the full range of options for maintaining the current strong performance of the constabulary.
“The Chief Constable will be bringing a formal business case later this year proposing the merger of the force with Bedfordshire Police.
“While the authority has begun to actively consider these issues it will not come to any formal view until it has fully assessed this business case.
“If the authority is persuaded by the strength and validity of the case, it will consult widely with the residents of Hertfordshire as well as with other stakeholders before making any final decision.
“The authority will need to be persuaded that any merger will improve policing for those who live and work in Hertfordshire and that the Force remains responsive to the needs of those in our county.”