Dorset Police 'Could Have To Merge With Hampshire'

There's a warning that Dorset Police are struggling so much financially they might have to team up with a neighbouring force like Hampshire or Wiltshire.

The county's Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill says they can't cope with any more budget cuts.

Dorset Police has already identified that it needs to save £22.5m over four years between March 2011 and March 2015 and says it 'faces a challenge to deliver savings'.

The force plans to achieve further savings of £5.2m in 2013/14, and another £4.3m in 2014/15, and has started to consider what savings it might need to make after March 2015.

In a report, it says 'based on current planning the force expects that most of these future savings will have to be found from pay costs. This would impact on the force’s ability to maintain its local policing neighbourhood teams and some protective services (functions such as traffic, dogs and major crime). The force report that a further 10% cut would necessitate a fundamental change of approach such as consideration of a strategic alliance with another force.'

Chairman of Dorset Police Federation Clive Chamberlain said:

"A merger would be a sad day and it would be a real shame to see forces lose their individuality. I think a lot of police officers particularly would be sad to see us have to merge with a larger force.

"It could also end up being more expensive and larger forces don't always perform well. Dorset Police has consistently performed well for many years.

"What the government really needs to do is sort out our funding because at the moment it just isn't divided up fairly. For years now Dorset Police has been one of the worst funded forces in the country."

Hampshire Police Federation Chairman John Apter said:

"We are already in collaberation with a number of other foces including Dorset for different parts of policing.

"The trouble is when forces merge they can lose their identity and with a force as big as Hampshire, it would consume Dorset; and that would be sad for Dorset.

"Large forces could be less accountable to the public and less approachable. It would go against everything we're trying to achieve with Safer Neighbourhood Teams and making sure identity comes first. Officers are extremely proud of being part of Hampshire and it would be extremely sad for them to lose that.

"We do need to take steps to save money but we're already doing that by working with each other and collaborating on things. That's positive and should continue but the merging of forces would be a bad thing for the public in Hampshire and Dorset."

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