Police protest at £100,000 payout

CAMBRIDGESHIRE Police Authority is to challenge the Home Office over its decision to repay only £100,000 of the money it spent on the abandoned merger with the Norfolk and Suffolk forces. On Monday, Home Office minister Tony McNulty announced that the sum

CAMBRIDGESHIRE Police Authority is to challenge the Home Office over its decision to repay only £100,000 of the money it spent on the abandoned merger with the Norfolk and Suffolk forces.

On Monday, Home Office minister Tony McNulty announced that the sums due to be paid to police forces in England and Wales would be capped at £100,000, despite some forces spending as much as £649,000.

Cambridgeshire police spent £242,000 preparing for the merger.

Philip Peaston, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Police Authority, said: "We are disappointed to be getting less than half of our money back.

"We actually resisted the wisdom of forced amalgamation in favour of an alternative approach, and we are disappointed that money had to be spent on it at all."

Nationally, the Home Office is refunding just two-thirds of the money claimed by police forces.

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Plans to merge forces into larger regional units were abandoned after the Government conceded the proposals were unpopular. The move followed Charles Clarke's sacking as Home Secretary and his replacement by John Reid.

Mr Peaston said: "We are out of pocket for a campaign that we did not support. Out of a police budget of £112million, our £242,000 isn't much, but it is the principle of it.

"We are going to question the Home Office's decision as we helped other police forces and worked on behalf of other forces, so we believe we are entitled to another £37,000 on top of the £100,000 we are getting. We want to reclaim as much cash we can."

Cambridgeshire Police Authority is said to have spent £150,000 on staff, £57,000 on research, £2,000 on venues, £6,000 on advertising and £8,000 on travel expenses during preparations for the merger.

Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, also criticised the Home Office payout. He said: "That £142,000 difference could have been spent on employing more police officers to patrol our streets.

"Nationally, millions of pounds that could have been spent on frontline policing has been wasted due to the Government's ill-thought-out regional policing plans."

Forces losing the most amount of money include Surrey, which claimed £649,000, and Sussex, which claimed £519,000.

Exceptions to the £100,000 capping will be for Lancashire (£750,000) and Cumbria (£271,000) police authorities, which will get all their money back because they were selected to be the first merged force.

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