Exclusive: Government will "not stand in our way" over police merger, says deputy commissioner (From Malvern Gazette)
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Exclusive: Government will "not stand in our way" over police merger, says deputy commissioner
THE deputy police and crime commissioner for West Mercia says he is "open minded" about a merger - and claims "the Government will not stand in our way".
Barrie Sheldon has revealed that the Home Office believes a fully-blown merger with Warwickshire is not something it would try and prevent.
He also says the current commissioner Bill Longmore and himself are open to making it happen at some future date.
It comes despite Ron Ball, the commissioner for Warwickshire Police, ruling it out until at least 2016, when his first tenure is up.
Mr Sheldon said: "If the two PCCs decided it was in the best interests of both forces to form a merger, I have been told on quite good authority that the Government will not stand in our way.
"If there is a 'political will' in Warwickshire and West Mercia it may well happen, but both commissioners have got to agree and that isn't happening at the moment.
"Myself and Bill have an open mind on it and we are not ruling it out."
In 2012 both forces announced an alliance between them, based at saving a combined £30 million.
It includes 650 job losses and shared back office functions like IT, vehicles and HR.
West Mercia Police as the larger force is bearing the brunt of the cuts, taking around £20 million of that target on by 2016.
Rumours of a merger have continued on and off since then, but Mr Ball has consistently said nothing will happen during his time as the commissioner for Warwickshire.
But Mr Sheldon's comments open it up to becoming a possibility after 2016.
Both forces say if the alliance was not formed, another 280 jobs would have needed to be cut, largely due to reduced Government funding.
Mr Sheldon, speaking in a Q&A at Worcester City Council, said the Government was impressed with the pace of the merger.
"No other forces are anywhere near as advanced as we are, so much so that we are being held up as an example nationally," he said.
"What we have managed to achieve so far is something special in this time of austerity."
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