The call from Irene Curtis, President of the Policing Superintendents Association to reduce the number of Police Forces from the current 43 will not in itself threaten local policing standards. Her challenge deserves to be heard and supported by Ministers who have stripped resources from the policing structures in this country at a rate that their predecessors could not have imagined. The response from the Home Office that such a move would damage local policing shows how little they understand the nature of policing and sadly reflects that they are far more concerned about the next election than they are about what is needed for Policing post 2015. However this call for a reform of the strategic structure of Policing does not on its own address the issues that all of us face in our desire to understand who is responsible for what service in our communities. Living in a unitary authority means that all of my Council Services are delivered by one organisation. Some of my friends live in areas where there are 3 tiers of Council provision (Town/Parish, District/Borough and County). However the provision of Policing in Sussex operates across one unitary area and two County areas. The Fire Service for this geography is provided by two organisations, which a couple of years ago explored merger, but despite the cost benefits (something that could have secured frontline provision) one of the County Councils decided to reject the idea, primarily because they did not want to lose control of their own service. The Ambulance Service for Sussex is managed on a much wider geography than the pan Sussex footprint of Sussex Police. Courts Services and what used to be called Probation are also dealt with over a wider geography, but none are coterminous with each other.
The decisions regarding local Government and other services such as the Police are essentially decided by Politicians. That was evident in the response by Irene Curtis on this mornings Radio 4 news, she was not proposing how future policing should be organised, merely that the current arrangements are not as effective as they need to be. The problem for you and I is that each political party has their own ideas of what benefits their own organisations future. Labour may have some first rate ideas about how to deliver services in West Sussex, but short of a complete meltdown within the County, the party will never have a chance for their views to be heard, because of the inbuilt dominance by the Conservative Party. In 2014 I believe Irene Curtis is right to challenge the idea that 43 Police Forces is the right number for our nation. It took ‘Deep Thought’ 7.5 Million Years to conclude that the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything was 42. That may not be the right number for Policing, and we don’t have another few Million Years to get Deep Thought to recalculate. What we do have is a General Election in around 7.5 months time. Perhaps the Political Parties could use that time to paint a picture of what organisational structures fit for the 21st Century look like taking into account the Billions of pounds that are spent, and sadly the Millions that are wasted by the inefficiencies of our current structures. All too often these same Politicians have blamed inefficiencies within organisations for waste, it is now time to focus on their own ideas so that the inefficiencies caused by political decisions are addressed.