This week, a group of senior police leaders published a report on the future of policing in England. Whilst this debate is welcome, the greatest threat to local policing comes not from funding cuts, nor restructuring at a national level, but from the prospect of North Yorkshire Police being controlled by a ‘metro mayor’.
A series of private meetings have been held between council executives and leaders at which they discussed devolution options, including local policing being governed by a Metro Mayor for ‘Greater Yorkshire’. This could involve the possible merger of four forces including all or parts of North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Humberside and South Yorkshire police.
Commenting on the plans, which are understood to be in their early stages, Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said:
If these plans go ahead, there is little doubt that North Yorkshire’s communities would suffer as a result.
Regardless of whether or not the final solution results in a full scale merger, we would inevitably be pitched alongside other areas in South and West Yorkshire with far greater demand and challenges than here in North Yorkshire, one of the safest counties in England.
The police decide where to send resources based on ‘threat, risk and harm’, meaning that there is every likelihood that we would see cash-strapped forces such as West Yorkshire suck up our resources.
This is particularly galling as in North Yorkshire we pay much more for our local police than they do in the rest of the region, meaning that our residents could end up subsidising crime in distant parts of the area. I am particularly concerned about our rural communities where police officers already have to cover large geographical areas.
Discussions behind closed doors take us back to the dark ages of unaccountable decision-making and as democratic leaders we need to take the public’s views into consideration.
To this end, I have written to every MP, Council Leader and Chief Executive in North Yorkshire and the City of York urging them to consider the implications for North Yorkshire Police and to involve police leaders in the discussion.
The worst case scenario is that this could be the first step in a ‘back door merger’ of police forces, which would not in any way benefit the people of North Yorkshire, especially as we have well developed plans to cope with future financial challenges.
I’m all for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as the economic and other benefits could be substantial, but including North Yorkshire Police in this would undoubtedly risk our local policing.