Leeds police divisions could merge in force shake-up

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The number of police divisions covering Leeds could be cut from three to one as part of a radical transformation of West Yorkshire’s county force.

Bosses at West Yorkshire Police, which has come under fire for failing to make radical enough savings to cope with cuts to Government funding, plan to “transform every corner of the force”.

At a scrutiny meeting on Friday (Sept 13) chief constable Mark Gilmore unveiled details of a ‘programme of change’ to allow further savings in the long term.

It includes a proposal to merge policing divisions in Leeds from three to one and in Bradford from two to one to bring them in line with council boundaries.

Mr Gilmore said no decision had yet been made but added: “These divisions have been quite intensive in terms of management input and it seems to me we need to be much more concurrent with our partners.”

One of the members of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, where Mr Gilmore was speaking, said the move would mean one chief superintendent was in charge of an area the same size as some police forces.

Tory councillor Les Carter said: “I suggested this years ago and you told me it was impossible and gave me a million reasons why we should not do it. Now you are saying you might do it.”

Crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson replied: “Times have changed, we have £140 million to take out of the budget over five or six years. Final decisions have not been made, we need to have discussions with leaders and councils around these financial issues.”

In a recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, it was revealed that West Yorkshire Police had yet to work out how it planned to make the final £9.4m in savings of its total requirement of £112.6m between 2011 and 2015.

The report said the force had a tough challenge because of its reliance on central government funding, but that it had “not grasped the same opportunities to transform and to deliver savings as other forces”.

Mr Gilmore said: “We are two years in and we still need to transform how we do business as opposed to just taking out efficiency savings.” He said he wanted to help create ‘multi-disciplinary teams’ of police officers, health, education and council workers to operate together locally, meaning problems could be solved earlier.

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