A proposed merger between Dorset and Devon and Cornwall Police is not expected to be a done deal yet after serious concerns were raised.

Councillors and police chiefs hit out at a recent meeting of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel which revealed a lack of detail in the proposed business case about the merger.

The stressed that it failed to answer the questions of whether the merger proposal has a clear economic basis (including a clear and viable path for precept equalisation), whether it would improve the efficiency of the police or the effectiveness of policing in the area.

Alongside this, it also failed to address whether it had an impact on public safety and sufficient local support.

They stressed that the October 12 deadline to submit the full business case to the Home Office was too soon and called for the deadline to be extended.

Both forces say that the proposed merger was driven by operational reasons and say that if approved it would provide an additional £3.2million which would be invested in 100 frontline staff.

However, any request to extend the consultation would have to be considered by chief constables from both forces and the two Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) who would also all have to approve the merger.

A full business case would then be submitted to the Home Office, with the Secretary of State making a ‘minded to’ decision in December 2018.

The arrangements would them come into place in May 2020 following the next Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Cllr Keith Wingate, South Hams member of the panel, said that they could "not really scrutinise" the case as there wasn't a sufficient "level of detail yet".

He added: " I have a number of questions but need the full business case to see if we can answer them.”

Torridge Panel member, Cllr Philip Hackett said they should be aiming instead towards the PCC elections in 2024, describing the October 12 deadline as a ‘shotgun wedding’.

He added: “We are just a few weeks short of the final deadline but there is no evidence on the table to tell us how it is going to be. The devil is in the detail. Marriage is easy, but divorce is a very murky subject, and if we get this wrong, there is no going back.”

In a statement provided to the Dorset Echo, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez,

stressed that she shared the feelings on the tight timescale and that it may be something that influences her ultimate decision on the merger.

However, she added: “I don’t want senior management of police naval gazing about a merger for any more than necessary. Don’t extend the timescale as I would rather we either make a decision to merge which will be time well spent, or a decision to not merge and then get on with the day job of policing.”

She added that detailed business case was expected to be put forward in a few weeks time.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset PCC, added: “A merger will enable us to re-invest the additional savings into policing across the three counties and increase resilience by sharing resources beyond the limitations we are experiencing with our current strategic alliance.”

The panel had considered a resolution to write to the Home Secretary to call for the submission deadline of the business case to be delayed until a detailed business case was considered but decided instead to re-arrange their next meeting which was due to be held on September 14 to allow a chance for a detailed business case to be presented to them.

A public consultation on the proposals is already underway and anyone who wants to have their say on the merger should visit futurepolicing.co.uk until Monday, August 27 to complete a survey.


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e: richard.percival@dorsetecho.co.uk

Twitter: @DorsetEchoRich