At its meeting on Friday (31st), the Authority rejected any voluntary merger at this time and set out a list of concerns that it would want addressed. The full Authority resolution is attached for your information.
Our decision was not an easy one to make and it followed a morning of detailed discussions between members, the Chief Constable and representatives of the Home Office and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC). There were many strong arguments put forward for a voluntary merger between Hertfordshire, Essex and Bedfordshire, including those put forward by the Chief Constable. His view is that the merger is inevitable and in the best interests of policing in Hertfordshire. However, members were concerned about a number of outstanding issues and voted 10:5 against a voluntary merger.
In particular, they were concerned about the ability to fund such a merger without the cost falling on the Council Tax payer, and about the level of local representation that a larger Strategic Police Authority would provide for the people of Hertfordshire. We also felt the process had been too rushed and that there had been too little public debate on these critical issues.
A letter from the Director General of Crime, Policing and Counter Terrorism, Moira Wallace, received the evening before our meeting, proposed 100% Government funding to cover the costs of restructure, but the figures being quoted by the Home Office fall far short of what we believe to be the true costs. These concerns were supported by our Treasurer and by the Constabulary’s Director of Resources.
In making our decision, we recognise that the Home Secretary is now likely to proceed with an order for a compulsory merger. However, we would still have the option to request a voluntary merger at any time before a Compulsory Order went through Parliament, and we are actively seeking to hold further discussions with the Home Office and HMIC in an attempt to resolve our concerns.
We also hope to meet with colleagues in Bedfordshire and Essex Police Authorities to discuss a way forward. They meet early this week to decide their course of action and we will let you know the outcome as soon as it is available. To enable a voluntary merger of the three forces, all three Authorities would need to agree to submit a request to the Home Secretary.
In the meantime we aim to ensure that in any discussions with the Home Office we address all the concerns that you, our other stakeholders and the public may have.
Our intention, as always, is to protect the interests of the people of Hertfordshire and ensure that they continue to have the most effective and efficient police service to meet their needs.
Thank you for your continued support.