2nd October 2018
By Richard Whitehouse
Police trying to encourage people to support a merger between Devon and Cornwall Police with Dorset Police carried out far less consultation in Cornwall than they did in the other two counties.
Documents which will go before the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel this week show that the police attended 37 public events and meetings in Devon between June and September, 22 in Dorset but just nine in Cornwall.
The figures have been released following widespread criticism in Cornwall over the lack of consultation over the proposed merger and the lack of detail which has been provided about the plans.
Last week it was announced that a decision on whether to submit the business case for the merger to the Home Office had been delayed while Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner (PCC) Alison Hernandez announced that she was minded not to support the merger.
The documents going to the police and crime panel also detail the results of a survey which was undertaken as part of the consultation online, on the telephone and on paper.
These show a stark difference between how people in Cornwall responded compared to those in Devon and Dorset.
The online survey was completed by 2,080 people in Cornwall but just 16% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “As the police forces already work closely together, a merger seems like the next logical step.”
In contrast 36% of respondents in Devon agreed or strongly agreed and in Dorset it was 48%.
The survey also asked for views on the statement: “I don’t mind how the police are organised, as long as my community is safe.”
In the online survey 31% agreed in Cornwall compared to 46% in Devon and 59% in Dorset.
When asked if they agreed with “I can see the benefits of the merger over working together in a strategic alliance” in Cornwall just 18% agreed or strongly agreed compared to 36% in Devon and 48% in Dorset.
And when the survey asked whether they would be willing to pay more for frontline policing 78% of online respondents in Cornwall said no.
Malcolm Brown, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Cornwall Council, had a motion that he put forward to full council last month that the council should not support the merger supported by a majority of councillors.
He said: “As the successful proposer of the resolution that committed Cornwall Council to opposing the merger with the Dorset force, I find it very encouraging that the Police And Crime Commissioner is shifting her position. I am sure that the pressure from Cornwall Council is one of the main reasons.
“The consultation has been conducted very badly and the case for merger was always weak. It is such a waste of time and money that the police have put so much effort into this. I have even heard that new identity cards have been produced for police officers using the phrase Devon & Cornwall & Dorset Police Force. What arrogance to do this before a decision was even made!
“On Friday I will be one of five councillors representing Cornwall Council at a special meeting of the Devon and Cornwall Police Panel. Obviously I will listen to all the arguments that will be put but I expect that the panel will decide to oppose the merger.
“One year on from the announcement that a merger was to be investigated, part of a business case has been published. That is helpful but to me this argument was always about more about money and speculative cost savings. It is more about whether putting Cornwall into a police force covering an even bigger area increases the chances that our residents will be served well. I am no convinced that would be the outcome.
“I hope that, if the Panel says no strongly, the two Chief Constables and the two Police And Crime Commissioners will listen and that the merger will be stopped once and for all.”
This article has been supplied to Cornwall Reports by the BBC Local Democracy Service