Calls for a major shake-up of police forces in the North have been made – and would see Lancashire Police wiped off the map.
In the wake of a fresh push for greater devolution following the Scottish referendum, a new report has been published outlining plans for all 11 police forces in the North to merge.
In its blueprint for devolving power to the region, Campaign for the North claims a single police force – similar to Police Scotland – would bring improved performance at a lower cost to the public.
Lancashire Police said no merger is currently on the agenda – but warned further changes to the way the force operates are inevitable as funding cuts mean it has to slash £20m from its budget on top of the £60m of savings it has already made.
The report, released this week, says: “The argument for a unitary policing structure for the North of England is so strong that it is difficult to see what evidence could be marshalled against the concept by bodies or individuals resistant to change.”
The campaign claims creating a single police force for the region would save £3m a year in reduced senior management costs alone.
The comments echo similar calls from Police Superintendents’ Association president Irene Curtis, who said the number of forces in the country is too high and a “waste of public money”.
The report, which calls for the North to be given the same powers as Scotland, said it has already be shown north of the border that merging police forces can work.
In Scotland, the savings from merging eight forces to create Police Scotland in 2013 totalled £110m in the first year.
However, it says the move is likely to be rejected by Police and Crime Commissioners, who would see their numbers dwindle if forces were to merge.
The report adds: “They have been established on the 43 force model and have a vested interest in seeing it continue.”
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “My first priority is to ensure that we continue to provide high-quality, effective policing for the people of Lancashire.
“We already work very closely with colleagues across the region and will continue to do so however there is no political agenda nationally to merge police forces.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We are clearly aware of the financial challenge we face.
“I would like to reassure people in Lancashire that they should be in no doubt that whilst policing will need to change in the future, our determination to deliver high quality services to keep them safe remains at the forefront of any change.”