1. ITV Report

Devon & Cornwall Police merger with Dorset called off

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton, Alison Hernandez PCC, Martyn Underhill PCC, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton Photo: Devon & Cornwall Police website

The proposed merger of Dorset Police with its neighbouring force of Devon and Cornwall appears to have been cancelled.

In a meeting this afternoon the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel voted to back the decision of their Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, to reject the merger plans.

Before the meeting Alison Hernandez had said that she did not support the plan and her view was not to submit the business case for the merger to the Home Office.

The alliance had hoped a merger would enable them to share resources and cut down on costs. The joint police force would have become the largest rural police force in the country.

The decision comes the day after a statement from the Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, stating his reasons for wanting the unification to take place. He said that he had the cooperation of both the Chief Constable for his own county and the Chief Constable for Devon & Cornwall.

The two PCCs, Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police and Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton for Devon & Cornwall Police had originally agreed to the business case at a meeting on Tuesday 25th September, however they did not reach a unanimous decision on whether to go forward with formally submitting the plan to the Home Office.

According to a statement a final decision was due to be made on Monday 8th October, following consideration of public consultation and feedback in both areas. However today's news effectively stops the plan altogether.

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill has responded to the rejection of the merger proposal by his Devon and Cornwall counterpart by saying that his view for the merger to go ahead was already on record - and that Alison Hernandez was the only one to reject the plan among the four major decision-makers.

“My view on the merge is already on record and was put before the Panel today. The Business Case is proved, and I am frustrated that a politician has stopped a proposal put forward and supported by operational policing leaders.

“Sadly, it seems that the people of Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will now be paying the same for less.

“Alison Hernandez has said that her decision is not about politics, but I’d repeat an observation that I have already made – I do not believe that she has set out a clear rationale and she remains an outlier amongst the four decision makers. Consequently, despite her assertion, I must conclude that she has sought a particular course of action precisely because of political reasons.

“What is now important as we come out of the merger discussions is to reassure the residents of Dorset that we will carry on doing what we do. This is now very much business as usual. Dorset Police is a good force performing well, and it will continue to serve its people and its communities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

– Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner