Policing tsar calls for debate over merger of forces

Mark Burns-Williamson

Mark Burns-Williamson

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West Yorkshire’s crime commissioner says the current model of 43 police forces in England and Wales may not be sustainable amid dramatic funding cuts.

Mark Burns-Williamson says the debate about devolution to the English regions should include whether individual forces should merge to save money.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post today, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for West Yorkshire says his force faces a 30 per cent budget reduction between 2011 and 2016/17.

He added: “So it begs the question, is the current model of 43 police forces in England and Wales, sustainable in such circumstances?”

Mr Burns-Williamson, a former Labour councillor who was elected as PCC in 2012, said last year’s merger of eight forces in Scotland to a single force “seems to be working”.

And he said the Scottish referendum, after which Prime Minister David Cameron promised to devolve more powers north of the border, “now opens up a debate around devolution of powers to regions”.

He said: “What happened in Scotland, which has a similar population size to Yorkshire and the Humber of five million or so, provides us with an impetus and now is the right time to look at whether reform of services could be tied into that devolved democratic debate that needs to happen.

“When you ask the public if they are willing to pay extra for policing they generally are, but then central government puts a cap on how much you can raise locally which fundamentally mitigates against the concept of PCCs and devolved decision making...it needs to change.

“Collaboration is essential and a good thing to do and all four Yorkshire and Humber PCCs, and police forces, are working together...but through experience there is only so far you can go with collaboration.”