Police force collaboration: the Police Foundation’s review of Warwickshire/West Mercia forces’ Strategic Alliance
An independent review commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioners for Warwickshire and West Mercia confirms their Strategic Alliance as a beacon of collaboration that other forces would do well to learn from. Undertaken by the Police Foundation, an independent think tank on policing, the review was commissioned at a cross-road in the forces’ journey towards even greater collaboration. The Foundation’s report highlights the achievements of the Alliance to date and pinpoints how it might progress in the future.
As Kate Flannery, one of the report’s authors commented:
“The Strategic Alliance forged by Warwickshire and West Mercia is a striking example of two organisations working together for mutual benefit, finding practical solutions to inevitable challenges around leadership, processes and culture. In straitened times it offers a platform for success rather than simply economic survival. Any future attempt to unravel this model of integrated police provision would fail all serious tests of cost-effectiveness – there is no going back to two stand-alone forces.”
John Graham, Director of the Police Foundation and a co-author of the report says:
“The Alliance undoubtedly provides excellent value for money, with forces across the country searching to find new ways to cut their budgets while continuing to meet changing public demand, including the rapid growth of internet-enabled crime. Delivering a major change programme is difficult enough without having to find significant financial savings and to do this with little adverse impact on performance is simply remarkable”.
Despite the successful integration of local policing and most specialist operations and support services, there remains a question of dual leadership. The two PCCs, two chief constables and two deputy chief constables have not yet established a rational division of labour and lines of accountability are blurred. This situation invites challenge on grounds of both logic and value for money; it makes governance unnecessarily complex, and for a partnership defined by the principle of ‘only doing things once’ is a contradiction.
After concluding that there is still work to be done, the authors provide a road map that strengthens and deepens the Alliance while responding to the challenges of rising demand, shrinking resources and the emergence of ‘new crimes’ that have little respect for traditional police borders. But the key question – to merge or not to merge – remains and is one the two PCCs have yet to resolve.
Notes for Editors
The current coalition government is committed to supporting and encouraging collaborative initiatives, but is not committed to imposing force mergers from the centre. In her speech to the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities National Conference in June 2010 the Home Secretary strongly emphasised that police force mergers would not be allowed to happen unless they are voluntary and secured with the full support of the local community (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/police-reform-theresa-mays-speech-to-the-national-policing-conference).
The Warwickshire/West Mercia Strategic Alliance was launched in 2012. The Police Foundation was invited by the Police and Crime Commissioners for Warwickshire and West Mercia to undertake an independent but critical review of progress to date with a view to outlining possible ways forward. The report of the review – Police force collaboration: An Independent Review of the Warwickshire/West Mercia Strategic Alliance – authored by Kate Flannery and John Graham, is published today by the Police Foundation (add web link).
For further information, please contact the Foundation’s Communications Officer, Catherine Saunders (02075823744, Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org), or the Warwickshire OPCC’s Media and Communications Officer, Mina Sharma (01926 412418, email@example.com).