Two police forces in the South West are to be congratulated for coming together to share administrative costs in order to save millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Avon and Somerset Constabulary are pooling together with neighbouring Wiltshire Police to share the costs of their IT, HR and other back office services. It is hoped this will go some way to meeting the £47m Avon and Somerset police have had to make in savings, plus the £12m Wiltshire Police need to cut from their budget.
This is not leading to a full-scale merger of the two police forces, emphasise both police force commanders, but has attracted the praise of the Prime Minister. "I would praise the police because they have had to take difficult decisions over the last few years," says David Cameron. "But crime in Somerset has fallen quite markedly, so the police have demonstrated that they can do more effectively with less and increase the percentage of officers on the front line."
"We’re very optimistic about finding ways of working more closely together in the future," says Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens. "We have a good track record with existing collaborations and there are clear benefits for both forces in pursuing further opportunities."
Wiltshire and Swindon Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson is equally enthusiastic. "This strategic alliance would look at how we could share more of our resources, such as specialist police resources and office functions," he says. "Local policing – which we know is so important to our communities – would continue to be delivered locally in response to communities’ needs. Police budgets are in a very challenging state and in the coming years this collaboration would help find the savings that both forces need to make."
Let’s hope other regional emergency services take note and, where appropriate, follow this encouraging lead.
Tim Newark, South West co-ordinator of the TaxPayers’ Alliance