West Mercia Police to face financial burden of withdrawal from strategic alliance
The substantial costs of withdrawing from its strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police will be paid for by West Mercia Police
The ending of this most collaborative and closely integrated strategic alliance in UK policing is a major change in a time of police cuts.
But the financial outlay of the withdrawal will have to be met by West Mercia Police as it has instigated the breakup.
Warwickshire Police Chief Constable Martin Jelley told Police Professional he was surprised by West Mercia’s decision to end the alliance, first created in 2012, but the decision will hit both forces financially.
“We’ve got very limited analysis as really we were only informed of the formal decision yesterday (October 8), so it’s very early days. I think the question is what is the position for the finances of both forces going forward? And clearly the alliance, which has been running very successfully for six years now, has saved well in excess of £35 million for the two forces.
“We have been recognised nationally in terms of the extensive nature of our collaboration, and we remain today, ironically perhaps, the two forces which are the most collaborated in the country. So it is concerning, and there will have to be a lot more detailed work on some of those (financial) issues.”
“Working in collaboration is always challenging, but I think it’s absolutely worth it for the benefits because it’s all about the resources we’ve got to put out there to police our local communities. I think that our strategic alliance has proved really helpful in allowing us to maintain as much of the frontline as we can in difficult financial times.
“Warwickshire is a small force undoubtedly, so it has financial implications for us, but I would make the point that it has financial implications for West Mercia most definitely, and ultimately indeed the alliance agreement is that whoever terminates an agreement of this nature has to pay all reasonable costs, so that will have to be thought through as time goes on.
“I know that this would have come as a surprise for our staff across both forces, and naturally we are going to have a period when there is some worry and concern. What I would say to our staff is that we are totally committed to working out the detail of this in the coming weeks and months, and we will still need committed staff to successfully police communities in both forces.
“We accept that it’s their (West Mercia’s) statutory ability to terminate the alliance agreement and we will work constructively to exit that agreement in the coming months.
“I am clearly disappointed about the recent announcement, and recognise that there will be some challenges ahead, but we are now beginning to look forward to the future, and we look forward to that future with confidence. I have a great team of officers and staff in Warwickshire who I have no doubt will put their shoulder to the issues and continue to deliver policing business as usual in the county…We will meet the challenges head on.”
Negotiations between the West Mercia and Warwickshire forces will commence to see where current cost and strategic efficiencies can be maintained through a different shared service arrangement from October 8, 2019.
West Mercia PCC John Campion accepted that the alliance agreement includes a line stating that “all reasonable costs” of terminating the agreement will be paid by the party initiating the termination.
However, he said: “This has been a carefully considered decision with communities in mind, and both the chief constable and I are in agreement that this approach will enhance and improve the service moving forward. How exactly this will look will be shaped over the next year, and this will be worked in detail, with our communities and workforce at the forefront of any decisions.”
West Mercia Chief Constable Anthony Bangham added: “This is a positive start for a new chapter for West Mercia Police, opening up opportunities to deliver more efficient and effective policing services and providing the very best protection to our communities, with a greater focus and clarity at a local level.
“Whilst officers will respond as they always have, local policing will be enhanced, by improved supporting services. Work is underway to shape this, refocusing where collaborative arrangements are currently in place.”
“The planning of this will now commence at pace, with immediate effect and we will continue to ensure our workforce and key partners remain informed throughout this process.”
Warwickshire PCC Philip Seccombe added his surprise to the announcement.
“Since I took office in May 2016, I have been strongly supportive of the alliance between Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police,” he added.
“I am very surprised therefore by the decision by the West Mercia PCC and chief constable to end the strategic collaboration between the two forces. This is a hugely disappointing development which I do not support.
“The implications of this decision are significant, and I will be working with Chief Constable Martin Jelley to minimise any impact on our communities, partners and workforce. I want to assure the public that throughout this period, Martin and I are determined to ensure that Warwickshire Police continues to deliver a high-quality service to our public.”