PLANS to merge Cambridgeshire s police force with Norfolk and Suffolk could still be ditched in favour of improvements to dealing with cross-border organised crime. The announcement by Home Secretary John Reid this week that no decisions on force amalgama
PLANS to merge Cambridgeshire's police force with Norfolk and Suffolk could still be ditched in favour of improvements to dealing with cross-border organised crime.
The announcement by Home Secretary John Reid this week that no decisions on force amalgamations will be made before the autumn - they had been expected in August - has given cause for hope of a reprieve for the Cambridgeshire force.
Michael Williamson, chairman of the county's police authority, has been pressing for the county force to be left to get on with reducing crime at neighbourhood level.
At the same time, he recognises the need to deal with "level two" offending - serious cross-border and organised crime - by putting in place a series of binding federal arrangements with other forces.
His plan, which is gathering momentum with other forces across England and Wales "even if they don't all properly understand it," he says, would formalise and strengthen collaborative arrangements the Cambs force already has with not just Norfolk and Suffolk, but with Essex, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.
"Dr Reid touched on nearly every concern we have," Mr Williamson told The Hunts Post. "This week's move gives us the opportunity to put forward the federal option that we were not given the opportunity to voice properly when Charles Clarke was Home Secretary.
"We think it's put us in a much better position."
He acknowledges the status quo is not on the cards, but he is concerned about the cost of amalgamation and the potential loss of local accountability.
"I would hate us to move forward and spend all the savings we could make, for example, in sharing IT and human resources costs, on setting up amalgamated forces.
"We should spend it on front-line policing," Mr Williamson said.
"Even now, we are moving very positively in Cambridgeshire towards 'level two' collaboration.
"I hope we can use this breathing space to press ahead with delivering the community policing we want to protect.