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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Cumbria police merger with another force 'a possibility'

Cumbria police may have to merge with another force if the Government continues to squeeze its budget.

Police photo
Police commissioner Richard Rhodes, left and chief constable Jerry Graham

Richard Rhodes, the county’s police and crime commissioner, and new chief constable Jerry Graham have both said they would be firmly against any merger but admit it remains a “possibility” should the budget cuts carry on.

Financial constraints imposed by central Government mean Cumbria Police has already had to slash more than £16 million from its budget in the last few years and the organisation revealed this week that it must save a further £10.4m by 2017.

Mr Rhodes said: “We are going on two things. Firstly, the statement from the chief inspector of constabulary saying that 15 smaller rural police constabularies are vulnerable.

“Secondly, if the financial resources continue to be reduced to the point where we can no longer function, a merger is a possibility.”

The commissioner was speaking shortly after he and Mr Graham announced that the force must make the savings. “If the current level of cuts continue, maybe it will be a case of death by strangulation,” he added.

The Cumbria Police Federation has voiced its concern about the possibility of an alliance being formed with another force, saying “there are genuinely worrying times ahead”.

Chairman Martin Plummer said: “What we want is a Cumbria Constabulary. We want to progress as an independent constabulary where officers work for Cumbria in Cumbria.”

He also spoke of how most officers who work in Cumbria are from the county and want to protect their area.

Frontline services will bear the brunt of the upcoming cost cuts – with police officer and support staff numbers certain to fall – with little else left to cut.

Currently 75 per cent of police spending is on staff, and both Mr Rhodes and Mr Graham say it is “inevitable” that the number of officers will reduce. However, Mr Graham has reassured the public that he is committed to protecting the frontline as much as possible.

“It is inevitable we will lose on the head count,” he admitted. “We haven’t many places to look other than the frontline. Inevitably there needs to be some really difficult choices about where we lose them.

“I would be dishonest if I said we weren’t going to lose people.

“It is not just about the number of police officers, it is about what they are delivering. We have a major challenge to make sure they are as visible as possible.”

Rank and file officers are unhappy about the level of cuts now being proposed.

Mr Plummer said: “Unfortunately the service we provide is going to be eroded by more cuts. If you’re asking a police officer to do the job that used to be done by 10, they will work hard but they can’t sustain that level of professionalism that we want or that Cumbria expects.”

Another area where the force has identified savings is in its neighbourhood policing teams, with a possible shift from 10 to three.

Other money-saving methods include reviewing how police community support officers (PCSOs) are deployed, reviewing shift patterns and reducing administration costs.

The force will be embarking on a series of meetings, including public consultations, in the coming months to thrash out the details.

Have your say

The County's MP's are unusually quiet about this when they often have plenty to say about other issues. Are they not concerned about the safety of their constituents? But let me guess, when something, inevitably, goes seriously wrong, Mr Stevenson and Mr Farron will be quick to blame the Police, not their Government cuts? Proud Cop has it absolutely right in my opinion.

Posted by AnotherDave on 6 September 2014 at 12:25

Why is it that any issue to do with the Police is laid at the door of the Police a Commissioner, as per the comment by Anon? I am not a fan of Richard Rhodes, he has still not come clean on the suspension of his 'whistle blowers' who should be applauded for highlighting his extravagance, and we still don't know the full story on the debacle of the long term paid suspension of the previous Chief Constable.
That aside, the concept of an elected commissioner answerable and accountable to the public has to be better than another quango, self appointed and unaccountable such as the previous Police Authorities.
Unfortunately savings have to be made, unless we are all prepared to pay more, don't suppose many will vote for that? At least we can tell the commissioner what our priorities are and instead of constantly sniping about the structure, get engaged and make it work for us all - that's what democracy is all about.

Posted by Peter M on 5 September 2014 at 20:57

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