County would lose out if police forces merge

News from the Lincs Free Press and Spalding Guardian,, @LincsFreePress on Twitter
News from the Lincs Free Press and Spalding Guardian,, @LincsFreePress on Twitter
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Labour’s plan to merge police forces could see Lincolnshire losing resources to fight crime in the county.

The Labour Party is also considering scrapping elected police and crime commissioners as part of a process of “decluttering” public services – but, so far, it hasn’t said what will replace them.

In a report for the party last year, former Met Police Commissioner Lord Stevens set out a range of options for cutting the number of police forces in England, including voluntary mergers, a reduction from 43 to ten regional police forces or one national service.

But Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick and police and crime panel vice chairman Paul Przyszlak say this would tend to draw resources towards the big cities and away from rural counties like Lincolnshire.

Coun Przyszlak said: “I think it’s important that policing listens to local concerns and I think if the accountability was in the Home Office they would not worry about two break-ins in Crowland that are important to the people in Crowland.

“I don’t think Whitehall, for example, actually appreciates what happens out in the shires.”

He said Lincolnshire Police is involved in cross-border cooperation with East Midlands forces in areas like serious crime, but that wouldn’t work so well for neighbourhood policing.

Mr Hardwick said: “A lot of people are looking at the Scottish model, where Scotland has a national police force, and are saying ‘why can’t it work for the rest of the UK?’

“But I don’t think that’s comparing like with like. I think people are more comfortable with what they regard as their own police force that has a definite county identity.

“I think there may be a cash drain away from the more rural areas. I think rural areas would probably be regarded as second class citizens, however I do believe in regional collaboration which is something we undertake at the moment in the East Midlands.”

Police authorities were replaced by police and crime commissioners, working alongside police and crime panels, in November 2012.

Mr Hardwick said: “I don’t think they have been given a fair crack of the whip – I don’t think they have been given enough time to prove the system works.”

But Coun Przyszlak said police authorities were better than the new system because they had countywide membership with people who understood the issues on their patch.