DAVID Cameron had a nice line this week when he accused the government of “wasting police time” by first proposing a reduction of the number of police forces in England and Wales from 43 to about 20 and then abandoning the idea after years had been spent in discussion and planning. The main driving force behind the mergers was the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke but he found that there was very little enthusiasm for the idea among Chief Constables and eventually said that he would “force” some of the more important amalgamations. When John Reid took over the Home Office he lost no time in dropping the plan and clearly had no difficulty in getting the prime minister's support. Dr Reid probably took the pragmatic view that the Home Office had too many problems already without a long drawn out fight with Chief Constables. There are strong arguments for bigger forces operating over wider areas with greater resources and better co-ordination, especially in anti-terrorism work. Against this is the belief that, in the end, “all policing is local”. The key, of course, is the willingness of the existing forces to share information and, where necessary, resources. Until this week the Lancashire and Cumbria forces were going ahead with a merger voluntarily but changed their minds at the last moment. This was unfortunate because it could have served as a test case to see the advantages and disadvantages. As it is, nothing will change in ther foreseeable future.


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