Reports that the South Yorkshire Police Authority is to replace qualified police officers with community support officers must raise concerns that the same thing could happen in Dorset.

Community support officers, though a useful addition to law enforcement, do not have many of the powers of police officers and are no substitute for them in many situations.

What is additionally worrying is that the government plans to abolish police authorities in favour of directly elected police commissioners.

In effect this will mean that control of policy for the county will rest not with a body of people representative of the whole area, but one person.

Police strategy in the future, instead of being decided by public debate in front of the public and press, will be a private matter between the commissioner and the chief constable.

If they were to decide to take police officers off the beat as South Yorkshire have done, they could.

This loss of local public accountability is to be seen rapidly taking place elsewhere.

In Weymouth we no longer have our own chief executive but share him with West Dorset.

I watch the mammoth new West Dorset District Council office going up in Dorchester and grimly await news that more and more of our own departments will be switched there.

Meanwhile, we must expect to see the excellent Dorset County Council education department abolished and our schools to be handed over to non-accountable, self-perpetuating cliques of governors of Gove’s so-called ‘free’ schools.

As for doctors’ surgeries, we must expect to see them progressively and effectively controlled by private companies. In effect the present goverment is bit by bit abolishing local democracy because it says we can no longer afford it.

If it succeeds, we shall all lose, because local people will have no voice in their services.

Dr Alan Chedzoy, Former member, Dorset Police Authority, Dorset County Council, Spa Road, Weymouth