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Sunday, December 04, 2005

The cost of reorganisation

The Observer highlights the fears of most people concerning the reorganisation of Wales' police forces into a single entity, namely the cost. In particular they reveal that forces have been told there is no government money to pay for the shake-up - and the Home Office has admitted council taxes are likely to rise 'for some forces' to pay for it.

Clarke and policing minister Hazel Blears met privately with Labour MPs last week to try to head off a growing revolt. The Home Office is understood to be scratching around for extra funds to soften the blow, and insists no final decisions have been taken.

However, its acting director of policing, Andy Ford, told police authorities at a conference last month that the money from restructuring 'will have to come from borrowing as part of your business cases, as the government does not have the money'.

A Home Office spokeswoman insisted that this was 'not the final position', with talks ongoing. However, she added: 'There may be a rise for some forces in council tax: the majority will see a fall. We are not doing this to cut costs but we think there will be some efficiencies in back offices. We don't accept there will be a rise in precept in all areas.'

The letter from APA chair Bob Jones to Clarke argues that it will oppose the reorganisation until the funding question is settled, adding: 'Authorities want reassurances that, if the government wants restructuring to take place, it is prepared to invest to save: they want confirmation that there will be additional funding to meet the start-up/transitional costs of any mergers.'

In the same letter the APA seeks reassurances that the re-organisation 'does not involve council taxpayers digging even deeper into their pockets'.

The Observer understands that Gloucester, Cleveland and North Wales police forces are considering seeking a judicial review to appeal the restructuring plans unless they receive reassurances over funding.

The Secretary of State for Wales may well regret his rush to endorse an all-Wales Police force, especially if it leads to big Council Tax increases in the month before the Assembly elections.
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