A SCATHING statement from Warwickshire Police revealed it has asked the Home Secretary to force an extension to its alliance with West Mercia Police – accusing the latter of being ‘unreasonable and unrealistic’ in negotiations to end their collaboration – and has applied for a High Court injunction to prevent the termination of the alliance.
Warwickshire Chief Constable Martin Jelley and Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said they made the request because certain shared business areas ‘cannot be separated’ by the October 9 deadline – which was imposed by West Mercia when it decided to end the alliance last year.
They added they would consider ‘potential legal routes’ to ensure services could continue.
Around 80 percent of the alliance’s shared services – such as criminal justice, specialist policing services and financial services – are currently based in West Mercia.
The joint statement said proposals to temporarily extend the alliance for some services had been ‘taken off the table’ by West Mercia.
Ch Cons Jelley and Commissioner Seccombe said: “We are saddened it should have ever been necessary to make this request to the Home Secretary.
“It would be unreasonable and unacceptable for either force to withdraw from joint services in a situation where the other was not ready to transition to new arrangements.”
They added it was ‘difficult to understand’ West Mercia’s insistence that there is strong evidence to support the termination of the alliance.
“We have asked for this to be provided to us but have received no such detail. It is also significant that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was similarly unable to uncover any detailed business case.
“Similarly, no evidence has been provided to substantiate the claim that West Mercia Police is subsidising Warwickshire Police and we would strongly refute such a suggestion.”
They said West Mercia had never engaged in any ‘dispute resolution mechanisms’ or discussed their concerns with Warwickshire.
They added: “The timeframe to separate our joint services was set by West Mercia without any proper due diligence. We have always felt it was unrealistic to separate what in some cases are highly complex and fully integrated joint services in just 12 months.
“We can reassure the public we remain committed to ensuring that policing will continue to be delivered uninterrupted during Warwickshire Police’s transition out of the alliance.
“We remain confident Warwickshire Police has a strong and exciting future outside of the alliance and our future plans will deliver an improved service to the public.”
A statement issued by West Mercia Police said: “The decision to end the Strategic Alliance with Warwickshire followed prolonged efforts to reform the arrangement. When it became clear that was not going to be possible, the only viable option available was to terminate.
“The current arrangement is no longer in West Mercia’s interests. This position is supported by evidence from both internal and external financial scrutiny, police performance inspections and feedback from within the police force.
“We have found ourselves stuck in a collaboration where Warwickshire contributes just 31 per cent of resources to the Alliance, but has a 50:50 say on governance, giving them a disproportionate influence on West Mercia’s policing decisions. This is not sustainable, and has left West Mercia picking up the significant costs associated with hosting 80 per cent of all Alliance functions.
“We have made numerous offers to Warwickshire for continued collaboration. These offers have all been rejected by our Warwickshire counterparts. Negotiations between all parties have ended, without agreement.
“We now anticipate intervention from the Home Office in the coming days to allow further time for Warwickshire to transition to a standalone model. We would have no choice but to respect any decision made by the Home Secretary.
“We have been unwilling to accept the wrong deal for our communities and our police force. We will not allow West Mercia to be held to ransom.
“We cannot simply accept the continuation of the current arrangement, which sees West Mercia significantly subsidising a neighbouring force, to the detriment of our police and our communities.”
The forces merged services including firearms, police dog officers, IT, HR and communications in 2013, saying they would save £30m by 2015.
Local policing services – including safer neighbourhood, patrol, and response teams – are still based in Warwickshire.
HMICFRS Inspector Wendy Williams said in a report last week: “Warwickshire Police currently provides many services through an alliance with West Mercia Police, which will end in October. I am concerned there is no certainty as to how it will provide these services in the future.”