Rufley slams Charles Clarke for ignoring his own advisors on police merger

Monday, 20 March, 2006

David Ruffley MP has today spoken of his outrage at news that the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, has ignored the advice from his own department that the regionalisation of police forces will prove too expensive and disruptive.

The information has been disclosed in a leaked joint review of the options for police reform carried out by the Home Office and the Downing Street strategy unit in 2004. The report concedes that reforms are needed in the light of the Soham murder investigation but said that these are 'not necessarily facilitated by wholesale reorganisation'.

The document adds:

'Evidence from other sectors suggests that mergers can be a costly protracted exercise that does not always deliver expected benefits and inevitably causes distraction for management and staff.'

Forecasts suggest that the police mergers could cost as much as £500million but the Government has yet to publish their own costing.

David said:

'This news is an absolute disgrace. The report by the Home Secretary's own department clearly confirms what I and others have long argued; in that these mergers will be incredibly expensive, disruptive and not necessarily deliver the savings the Government alleges.

'Charles Clarke is forcing these reforms through in the face of overwhelming opposition and against the advice of a report carried out by his own department.

'In the light of the Soham investigation there is a clear case for greater co-operation between forces but this does not require costly wholesale mergers.

'I have repeatedly called for the introduction of a directly elected Police Commissioner for Suffolk. He, or she, would be a 'Suffolk Sheriff'. This person would be accountable at the ballot box to local people for the level of crime in their area. Such a move would do far more to focus the police on cutting crime than this ill-conceived regionalisation of our constabularies.

'Cambridgeshire Constabulary is still going through massive changes and up until March of 2005 it was forced to work with the Home Office to reform its management structure. These problems are so acute that it led the Chief Constable in Suffolk to brand them the 'Billy no mates' of policing.

'Norfolk Constabulary has debts. If Norfolk have mismanaged their accounts and run up huge debts, Suffolk council tax payers should NOT be left to pick up the tab.

'This merger could lead to Suffolk taxpayers paying for second rate services as officers are forced to police crime hot spots such as Peterborough. It is yet another ridiculous piece of bureaucratic nonsense from the Civil Servants in the corridors of Whitehall, many of whom are completely out of touch with rural communities such as Suffolk.