Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Police mergers: Time to stop this anti-democratic nonsense

Sometimes, governments have to do things which are unpopular because they are necessary. Gordon Brown's decision to raise national insurance by 1p in 2001 to free up resources for the NHS and schools comes to mind.

But the plan to create regional police forces across England and Wales strikes me as neither popular nor necessary. In fact, for a government already in deep political trouble in other areas, it strikes me as potty.

I have written on this before in the Derby Evening Telgraph, one of many local papers who have campaigned against a proposal which appears to have very little public support.

Now, it seems, Labour MPs are cottoning-on to the fact that this is a certain vote-loser and urging the new Home Secretary, John Reid, to ditch the plan.

If he has any sense, he'll do what they ask. Reid's reputation as Home Secretary - and as a potential future leadership candidate - will rest on how far he succeeds in tackling the chaos of the immigration system and clamping down on violent crime, not whether he can successfully reorganise the police service.

The Government's argument that bigger forces are required to tackle major organised crime and counter-terrorism is a complete red herring.

We already have a new national agency for dealing with organised crime, and there is no reason why we could not bring back the old Regional Crime Squads to deal with other major cross-border investigations.

But 99pc of policing is local, not national or regional. That is why the present structure of locally-based forces, accountable to local people, should stay.


stalin's gran said...

Paul - but they are not accountable, so why not have a national police force accountable to the centre? Localism breeds corruption as we have seen. We need every force to be taken to account by an overarching body rather than have the Masons run their particular fiefdoms, surely?

Paul Linford said...


I bow to no-one in my contempt for freemasonry (see previous posts re the Press Gallery) but the problem of freemasonry in the police was a historical issue that has now been dealt with.

In any case, where is the guarantee that regional forces would not become just as infected by freemasonry as the county constabularies did in the 60s and 70s?

I agree that local accountability of police forces through police authorities is an imperfect system, but the principle is still an important one.

ian said...

Do you really think that people really care whether they have their burglary not investigated* by Kent Police, South East Police or the National Police?

*Unless it involves 50 million quid, of course

Anonymous said...

The real point is that the police lost most of their democratic accountability when the government of the day (John Major's) abolished the old COunty and Met Police COmmittees and replaced the majority of elected councillors with Home Office apontees, thereby quangoising the process utterly.

Any change to regional superforces should be resisted where there is clear local opposition (as in West Mercia and Cleveland) but if it does happen it will only really exacebate a trend already in being

Ellee Seymour said...

Cambs and Suffolk police are vehemently opposing their link with Norfolk, heartily endorsed by the former sacked Home Secretary Charles Clarke who refused to listen to anything other than what he wanted to.