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Police shake-ups branded 'absurd.

Byline: BY LIAM MURPHY

PLANS which could bring about a rapid restructuring of police forces in Merseyside and Cheshire have been condemned as "absurd" and "dangerous".

The chairman of Cheshire Police Authority, Peter Nurse, said restructuring the police service with such haste "is dangerous and not in the interests of the people of Cheshire", in a letter to the Home Secretary.

He has now urged Charles Clarke to review the timescales of the review which has thrown police forces across the country into uncertainty.

The Cheshire force learned early on it faced an amalgamation with its neighbours because it is one of the smallest in the North West.

In the first round of negotiations with the Home Office Merseyside Police had originally put forward four options which included a four-force merger between Merseyside, Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire and Merseyside Police remaining unchanged.

But Merseyside Police was told to concentrate on the remaining options of either a merger between Merseyside and Cheshire, or a "West Coast Force".

This option would include Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria, leaving Cheshire to merge with Greater Manchester Police. At the same time, Cheshire has been told it must put forward the business cases for merging with either Greater Manchester Police force or Merseyside Police force, and report back to the Home Office by Christmas.

The review of the forces follows a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) which warned that no force with fewer than 4,000 officers could cope with the demands of modern policing, like terrorism, firearms and Class A drugs. The HMIC report said these smaller forces would be likely to struggle.

All forces in the country are now conducting a major "root and branch" review after Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced plans to slash the number of forces from 43 to 30.

Merseyside has 4,339 officers but Cheshire, which has just 2,207 officers, is least likely to avoid being merged with another force.

The Home Secretary asked all police forces andauthorities to consider the best options for their region and to develop short-listed options for each region by the end of October and final proposals by the end of December 2005.

In his letter to the Home Secretary, Cheshire Police Authority's chairman Peter Nurse said they accepted there was a need to review the policing system.

But he said: "Policing is one of the cornerstones of our society and I feel the undue haste in which you are undertaking this review, based on what many have claimed is a flawed report is unnecessary and potentially damaging to everything we have tried to achieve in recent years."

His letter to the Home Secretary continued: "Your timetable is so absurd that it is impossible for us to have a meaningful dialogue with our communities and for us to fully appraise what is the best structure for policing in this area."

At a recent meeting of Wirral Council's cabinet, the chairman of the Merseyside Police Authority Bill Weightman said it was "not a done deal yet", and added: "The original four options we sent back are still there."

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said they do not comment on individual letters to the Home Secretary
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 19, 2005
Words:535
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