15th Nov, 2019

Home Office steps in to delay West Mercia and Warwickshire Police 'divorce'

Ross Crawford 13th Oct, 2019

A CONTROVERSIAL separation of the partnership between West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police has been postponed after Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered the two forces to continue their collaboration for a further six months.

In the direction made to the two forces under the Police Act 1996, the Home Secretary supported Warwickshire Police’s request for further time to resolve outstanding issues between the two forces to ensure there was a smooth transition for both towards their post-alliance futures.

The Home Office will also provide support to the two forces to identify independent expertise to assess and agree the costs of termination and transition.

Joint services which had already been set up to operate on a standalone-basis by the original October 9 termination date will continue to revert to single-force operation in Warwickshire as planned.

The remaining joint services will continue under the Strategic Alliance Collaboration Agreement until the end of April 8 next year as per the Home Secretary’s direction, or by any earlier or subsequent separation dates mutually-agreed between the two forces.

West Mercia Police, which had decided to break up the widely-praised ‘strategic alliance’ with Warwickshire last year, had set a date of Wednesday (October 9) for the divorce to go through.

In a statement, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham and West Mercia Police and Crime

Commissioner John Campion said the current arrangements was no longer in the force’s interest.

“The alliance did deliver some benefits in its early days. However, as the organisations reformed and evolved those benefits dried up for West Mercia and actively went into reverse,” the pair said.

“It is no secret it was born out of an immediate need for both forces to make significant financial savings. To that end, it served its short term purpose. However, that situation has now shifted. We are no longer facing reductions to our service and our police force has modernised significantly.

“While we would always seek to support another police force, we will not allow West Mercia to be held to ransom. We cannot simply accept the continuation of the current arrangement, which sees West Mercia significantly subsidising a neighbouring force, to the detriment of our police and our communities.”

In response, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe wrote to the Home Secretary following West Mercia’s decision to pull the plug and slammed the force over their efforts to achieve an amicable separation.

“Warwickshire’s position from the outset has been it would be unreasonable and unacceptable for either force to withdraw from joint services in a situation where the other was not ready to transition to new arrangements or whereby separation was not possible in a safe and orderly way,” he said.

“Throughout the last 12 months of negotiations with West Mercia, we have remained focused on achieving an orderly separation which protects the interests of our communities and our workforce.

“We have made multiple offers to this effect, which have been refused on each occasion by West Mercia,” Mr Seccombe added.

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