Herts Police faces Beds merger to protect frontline officers

MERGING with Bedfordshire Police is the best way of protecting frontline policing in Hertfordshire, the Chief Constable has said today.

The announcement comes as Hertfordshire Police Authority braces itself for difficult decisions ahead after the government revealed plans for significant cuts in police grants over the next four years.

Hertfordshire’s current grants have already been reduced by �2m with immediate effect, prompting an urgent review of this year’s spending.

Next Friday, July 16, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire’s Police Authorities will be considering ‘Options for Change’ papers submitted by both police forces and exploring a range of options to address this challenge.

Herts Police Chief Constable Frank Whiteley said: “Bedfordshire’s Chief Constable Gillian Parker and I share the view that a full and voluntary merger of Hertfordshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police is the best way forward to maintain policing performance and delivery across our two counties.

“A full merger is the option, in our view, that best provides protection to frontline policing whilst bridging the considerable financial gap we face, and at the same time enables strong partnerships to be maintained at every level across the two force areas. Merger would mean addressing this gap primarily by combining two headquarters infrastructures into one, enabling the majority of the savings to be drawn from back office and support functions, rather than an erosion of frontline and visible policing in our neighbourhoods.

“Geographically, a merged force would still be the smallest in land area in the Eastern Region, allowing specialist and support services to be delivered from a single site in most cases, which helps to achieve the savings planned.

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“In short, I consider a full merger is the best option for maintaining the high standards of policing that we deliver to communities across Hertfordshire.”

Chair of Hertfordshire Police Authority, Stuart Nagler, said: “Hertfordshire has a high performing police force that has delivered excellent results and we are keen to maintain these standards. The Authority has strongly supported the growth and development of Neighbourhood Policing in the county and will do all it can to maintain the level of frontline policing for Hertfordshire. However, we are now facing enormous financial challenges and need to take steps to minimise the impact on policing in the county – the latest announcements could lead to a shortfall of up to �26m over the next four years.

“We realise that all public services are facing the same enormous pressures but, with almost 83 percent of our money being spent on officers and staff, any cut of this size is going to hit hard on policing in the county”.

The Police Authority is meeting on Friday 16 July to consider a number of options to manage the anticipated funding reductions.

“Hertfordshire has been leading the way in collaboration and that has meant we are better placed than most to deal with these challenges. However, we must now consider all options, including a full merger with Bedfordshire Police, which is being proposed by both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Chief Constables. However, no decisions about a merger will be taken without extensive public support,” added Mr Nagler.

If the Authority decides to move forward with the option to merge, it would undertake extensive public and stakeholder consultation and, if supported by the public, would then need the approval of the Home Secretary before any final agreement is made.

People are welcome to attend the meeting on July 16, which starts at 10.30am in the Council Chamber at County Hall, Hertford. An Executive Summary and the Full Report will be available on the Authority website - www.hertspa.org - later today (Friday).