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Thinner blue line; CLARKE CUTS POLICE FORCES FROM 43 TO JUST 24 REGIONS.

Byline: By ROSA PRINCE

CHARLES Clarke yesterday ordered 13 more police forces to merge - slashing the number from 43 to only 24.

The Home Secretary defied pressure from MPs to keep them as they are, despite the revelation that his own strategy unit opposed mergers.

Huge "superforces" will be created in the East Midlands - making it the third largest in the country - and in eastern England.

Surrey and Sussex will combine, as will Beds, Herts and Essex. But Kent, Hants and Thames Valley have won a reprieve and will stay as they are.

Mr Clarke, who announced other mergers this month, said it will make forces "close, responsive and accountable to communities they serve".

But the Association of Police Authorities claims the full cost will be more than pounds 1billion.

Lib Dem spokesman Nick Clegg said the plans "will rip the heart out of community policing".

Norfolk Chief Constable Carole Howlett said: "It will provide the capacity, capability and resilience needed to deal with major crime and deliver local policing."

Decisions on forces in the South West and Yorkshire and Humberside have yet to be made.

But if the most radical option is selected, England and Wales could end up with just 17 police bodies.

r.prince@mirror.co.uk

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 21, 2006
Words:214
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