Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
No, austerity is not the primary driving force and the two chief constables and police and crime commissioners believe that this this is the right thing to do to further improve the efficiency of the two forces and build on the successes of the strategic alliance. The strategic alliance has realised real financial benefits since it began in 2015, and this is programmed to continue.
However, over the last five years there have been significant increases in the complexity and scale of the threat from terrorism, serious and organised crime and online/digital offending. Larger forces have shown themselves as being more skilful and sustainable in managing these new and emerging threats. The national and global transient nature of criminals, both on and off-line, does not lend itself to a static geographic model.
The creation of a new single force also helps us to protect our local policing capability which is essential to preventing and detecting crime, along with keeping communities safe and secure.
It is unlikely that police budgets will be cut again for the foreseeable future so why look at merging?
Policing resources are already over-burdened and both forces, as well as the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) made representations to the Home Office in advance of last year’s 2017 Autumn Budget Statement. The current settlement for policing is a budget cut in real terms. Taking into account inflation and cost pressures there will be less money every year for forces on top of real term cuts for UK policing of 18% since 2010.
Although the strategic alliance has resulted in clear efficiencies, we must explore all options available to protect frontline policing and provide a sustainable service to our communities for the coming years. We have seen significant increases in demand on policing in recent years. Financial savings from a single force will enable us to continue to reinvest in frontline policing services and specialist areas. This will also enable us to increase our capabilities and resilience to meet increased demand.
Whatever the political make-up of a Government, resources for public services are more precious than ever and it is essential that we maximise whatever budget we have to keep our communities safe and secure.
Policing has faced some significant funding challenges in recent years and, although police and crime commissioners have been able to secure additional funding through increases to the council tax precept this year, future flexibilities remain uncertain. We know that there will be a period of transition and harmonisation should the merger go ahead and that a balance will need to be achieved over time. Dorset and Devon & Cornwall Directors of Finance are currently reviewing various models for council tax harmonisation, as this will need to be reported on in the full business case which is required to be submitted to the Home Office in October 2018.
The combined area of the two forces together covers just under 5,000 square miles (3,961 in Devon and Cornwall, 1,011 in Dorset). With our current strategic alliance programme of 38 business areas, this means that we already have 19 alliance teams working across the three counties, with many more due to go live this year.
Many of our specialist operational areas are working together well now across the three counties (roads policing, firearms, drones, dogs, prevention) and we want to extend this under a merged force arrangement.
Changing to a single force will NOT affect those officers and staff you see in your local areas. Those resources are not going to be moved or removed from serving your local communities any more than they might be now (for example, to police a specific large event). Indeed, our ambition is to increase numbers in operational areas wherever possible in a merged force.
A merger means that Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police will legally go from two forces to one new force. There will be one Chief Officer Team with one chief constable. It will also mean one police and crime commissioner for the new merged organisation with one Office of the Police and crime commissioner.
We will consult with key stakeholders such as locally elected MPs and local councillors, take account of the views and feelings of the public and engage with staff before making any decisions about next steps.
The change will also make the new force the fifth largest force in England and Wales by officer numbers and population. It would create the largest geographic force and the largest rural and coastal force in England and Wales, which would provide us with a much stronger voice on a national level and the opportunities that this would bring.
Decisions such as this have not been made as there is still a lot of work to do to identify the benefits and challenges of becoming one force. We will be engaging fully with staff, our communities and key stakeholders over the next few months over a range of issues.
We understand that a new name will need to be agreed prior to legislation being laid, if our request to merge is agreed.
Once we know if the Home Secretary is minded to allow the proposals to progress, work will begin on what the new organisation will be called, include a design for a new crest if the authority from the Home Office to continue is ultimately successful.
The timescales are dictated by the police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections in May 2020. If this timeline is missed, change cannot happen statutorily until 2024.
The next stage will be staff, public and stakeholder engagement over the summer months in order to demonstrate support for the proposed new force. A full business case will be presented to the Home Office in October. We will then await Home Office approval by the end of the year.
If ministerial approval is granted a statutory instrument will be drawn up by the Home Office to be presented to Parliament during 2019. Full permission to merge will need to be obtained by the beginning of November 2019 in order that the electoral rules for 2020 PCC elections can be achieved. The new force would come into effect in May 2020.
Yes, a new force would have one police and crime commissioner with one chief executive and one Office of the Police Crime Commissioner. There would be one chief officer team with one chief constable to lead the new force. Decisions around the make-up and numbers of the chief officer team will form part of the business case.
The local policing ethos is really important to us and therefore it will not change, with local officers serving their respective communities. Although exactly how policing will look for specific communities across the region is not known in detail, creating a more visible, effective and resilient policing service is the aim for all communities.
A number of areas, such as operations and roads policing, have already been aligned and are working well across both forces with resources carefully considered before deployment. Any merger would create better resilience to local policing and will focus on aligning processes and procedure. Policing across an area of this size is a challenge, but this will be practically managed.
Local policing will still exist, with local officers serving their respective communities. Although exactly how policing will look for specific communities across the region is not known in detail, creating a more visible, effective and resilient policing service is the aim for all communities. What is clear though, is that without the strategic alliance and our current merger plan, local policing would see far greater reductions than it has to date.
The merger should not affect the number of PCSOs across the three counties. As part of the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Project Genesis work, the roles within neighbourhood policing are being reviewed to reflect the workforce mix required to meet the need against new and emerging threats. Dorset commenced this work before Devon and Cornwall so the forces are now working to align the models as required.
Within Devon and Cornwall an announcement was made that the number of PCSOs will be reduced to 150 by March 2021. The number of PCSOs working within neighbourhood teams in Dorset is set at 84. These numbers refer to the core roles, and other opportunities exist within Dorset for PCSOs focused on investigation and engagement. New opportunities are also being explored in Dorset and Devon & Cornwall including Blue Light Collaboration Officers.
A police officer remains a police officer no matter what force they might be from. Any decisions around uniform changes and changes to a respective force crest are yet to be considered.
We already have teams working will across the three counties. Many emergency services now operate ‘borderless’ call centres with technology assisting local expertise. There is an expectation that operators will be fully familiar with the geography and needs of the communities for which they will be serving. Even now calling 999 or 101 now doesn’t always see you speak to your local force directly. It makes both operational and economic sense to deploy the nearest available resource to where it might be required, that won’t change.
If I live in Dorchester and call the police, will I have to wait for an officer from Exeter to respond?
Local policing will still exist, with local officers serving their respective communities. It would make both economic and operational sense to always deploy a resource or unit nearest to where it might be required, that won’t change.
We are actively working closely with all of our blue light partners, fire in particular, and have no plans to stop doing so. We are aware that a number of police and crime commissioners are formally considering business cases to take on additional responsibility for governance of their fire and rescue service. This is not an option that is available to us, given that the geographic boundaries of our police and fire services do not match.
The strategic alliance between Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police is well established, and we already share a number of functions including People, Finance and Payroll that would make closer working more appropriate. Whilst a number of specialist functions are carried out on a regional basis, we are clear that local policing would need to remain local. A single force is the best way forward for us. Others forces in the region are in different places and are watching our work with interest.
Most police forces in the country are working in partnership with one or more of its neighbours. Whilst no other forces have formally considered a single force model in recent years, a number are in similar positions in reaching the limits of what can be accomplished within existing structures or alliances.
Engagement with staff, the public and stakeholders is essential and will be conducted over the summer months. An online survey will run between June and August 2018 and this will be promoted to encourage people to have their say.
Ultimately, no change can take place without express approval from the Home Office and Parliament. It is therefore essential that engagement with staff, the public and stakeholders takes place in order to demonstrate broad support for the creation of a new single force, as well as financial due diligence takes place.
The policing minister was approached by both police and crime commissioners on behalf of the two chief constables to formally request permission to explore the possibility of one force. We have been invited to produce and submit a full business case (FBC) in order that the Home Office can determine the merits of the request to merge. The Home Office will be kept updated throughout the process.
If the FBC is supported by the Home Office the Home Secretary can direct that a statutory instrument (SI) is written and laid before Parliament. The SI, once laid, would change the boundaries of our two force areas and create one police force area under the Police Act 1996.
There will undoubtedly be differing views and it is therefore critical that we look at the totality of information and opinions before progressing further in any of our discussions with the Home Office and the Government.
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