John joins other Essex MPs to pledge to do what he can to save Essex Police force.
Fifteen of the seventeen MPs in Essex including all the Tories, plus Andrew Mackinlay, (Labour) and Bob Russell, (Liberal Democrat) have expressed their opposition to the plans to merge the Essex force. Most of the MPs attended the meeting today and gave their backing to the APA’s alternative strategy, of greater cooperation between existing forces. Speaking following their meeting, John Whittingdale said:
This issue remains a very live one and my colleague Bernard Jenkin MP even pressed Tony Blair on it today at Prime Minister’s Questions. This really matters to our county and we have collectively supported this alternative plan, whereby forces can cooperate, for instance in fighting terrorism but whilst retaining their own county identities and ethos. Importantly, this alternative will also save council tax payers money.
The Government’s plan to scrap Essex Police and to merge it into a Regional Force is very different. This is not an idea that has emerged locally; instead it is a centrally imposed dictat. Essex is already one of the largest forces with 3,230 officers serving a population of 1,600,000. Yet the Government have refused to allow it to continue as a standalone force. Instead they have given three options under which Essex will either join with Norfolk and Suffolk or with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire or with all five plus Cambridgeshire to make a vast six county Eastern region force. This is clearly part of John Prescott’s plan to impose regional Government by stealth which has already seen proposals for the creation of a regional fire service, a regional ambulance service and a regional flood defence body.
A Regional Police force of whatever structure is likely to be far more remote and far less accountable than the existing Essex Police. It would also put at risk the close identity which exists between the police and the community they serve. The Essex Police Authority have therefore continued to include the option of an Essex-wide force in their consultation paper despite the instructions of the Government not to do so. They are entirely right and I shall be urging them to fight for the preservation of our County Police force.