Headlines: September 11th, 2014

Although there is some support for reducing the 43 forces to 24, the police service has chosen instead to deliver reform through a collaborative approach which is delivering greater efficiency.

Home Secretary, Theresa May, speaking to the Superintendents conference said that when she came to office four years ago she invited police forces to present merger plans to develop a regional approach to policing. No plans have been presented and forces have gone down the collaboration route and retained their local accountability.

Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners have demonstrated that collaborating with neighbouring forces can deliver all the perceived benefits of mergers without sacrificing local identity.

Theresa May gave examples of the efficiencies that collaboration is delivering. Warwickshire and West Mercia have entered an alliance which allows them to pool all of their resources below the level of deputy chief constable. They share not just back office functions, but also investigations, command teams, neighbourhood policing and a host of other activities. Earlier this year, they even opened a joint police and fire station in Bromsgrove.

Theresa May said: “HMIC has called this collaboration ‘ground-breaking’ and it is expected to deliver 32% and 47% of each force’s respective savings by March 2015. And in both forces, crime continues to fall. Last financial year, police recorded crime fell across both forces by 3% and since 2010 both have seen it fall by more than 10%.”

Another example of collaboration is the East Midlands Strategic Commercial Unit which buys services on behalf of Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire Police collaboratively. These forces are showing that shared procurement and common commissioning is possible across force boundaries, not just within them.

Surrey and Sussex forces now collaborate on major crime investigation, forensics and firearms, as well as back office activity like procurement. They are planning to extend joint working to include surveillance, police dogs and hi-tech crime in the near future. HMIC said “the forces share a joint vision to work as one, operationally and organisationally”.

Theresa May added: “They show categorically that the alleged benefits of bigger forces – greater efficiencies, economies of scale or increased capability – can be delivered through collaboration. This is the model for police reform in the future. Common systems, shared procurement, working across force areas, integration with other emergency services and joint capability. In Warwickshire and West Mercia, these benefits have already been accrued. The only thing left on the table is the loss of local identity and local accountability.”