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Former merger candidate forces roll back strategic alliance

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Integration now brought down further, to below ACC level.

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Warwickshire Police and West Mercia cars feature both force's badges. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Two forces who had been discussed as candidates for a merger have scaled back their integration.

Warwickshire and West Mercia Police announced a formal “strategic alliance” in 2012 and had been merged at all levels below deputy chief constable in recent years.

West Mercia's former PCC Bill Longmore had been sympathetic to the idea of a full-blown merger.

But this month further separation has taken place with two assistant chief constables moving back to working for just one force each.

Chief Supt Charlie Hill, who serves both forces, told the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales Conference on Wednesday: “We've moved away from a strategic alliance, in my view, to a collaboration around protective services, finance and enabling services.

“Frankly we need some real leadership from chief officers and PCCs to step up to the mark and say I'm prepared to give up sovereignty and move forward. Two FTSE 100 companies do not merge and have two chairmen, two chief execs, two deputy chief execs.”

He was speaking on the morning that Dorset Police along with Devon and Cornwall Police announced they are exploring the possibility of merging.

The existence of too many constabularies was a recurring topic throughout the staff association's conference this week, with PSAEW President Chief Supt Gavin Thomas raising it before the Policing Minister said he will listen if there are good arguments for them.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton, chairman of the NPCC, said that her working group had ruled out arguing for larger, fewer forces as part of its 2025 policing strategy, despite being in favour, because she didn't think it was widely achievable.

“Fewer, larger forces is not going to happen, politically it is just not an option,” she said. She pointed out problems including different council tax levels in neighbouring force areas.

In a joint statement, Warwickshire Chief Constable Martin Jelley and West Mercia Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said they remain fully committed to their alliance, and said it is “continually developing”.

“Part of any healthy development means continual review of our collaborative arrangements and the introduction of the ACC for each force is to ensure greater focus on local issues, partnerships and performance across the diverse landscape of our alliance.

“We are very proud of the fact that our alliance has been and continues to remain one of the leading collaborative working arrangements between police forces in the country which has been commended and recognised by HMIC.”

Their statement added that there are still “two clear and differing force identities” and the arrangement is “providing the very best service to our communities”.

View on Police Oracle

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My force is part of an alliance but we are reducing cooperation with the other forces as the PCCs all have conflicting aims which are difficult to resolve across borders.  I know the government has traditionally opposed mergers but it seems that their policy of imposing PCCs is also a barrier to some of the other levels of cooperation that they would like to see.

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