THE FUTURE of ‘vital’ policing services in Warwickshire has been secured after the county force agreed a new partnership with West Midlands Police following the breakdown of its alliance with the West Mercia force.
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has agreed to provide services for Warwickshire Police after its split from West Mercia left it in an ‘unsustainable position’.
A Warwickshire spokesperson said the force would ‘benefit from the latest technology to enhance policing’.
West Midlands Police – recognised as among the country’s leading forces in technology – will share services including payroll, systems supporting human resources, and business and IT services from April 2021.
Talks are also underway for West Midlands to provide forensic services, and for Warwickshire to join the West Midlands and Staffordshire forces in the Central Motorway Policing Group, a collaboration to patrol the region’s roads.
Warwickshire’s Conservative PCC Philip Seccombe said West Midlands’ technology could make his force more efficient and effective.
Warwickshire chief constable Martin Jelley added: “This agreement would see around ten per cent of our overall services being delivered in a collaborated manner or through existing regional arrangements, with the remaining being stand-alone in Warwickshire.
“We are looking forward to being at the cutting edge of policing and protecting the public from harm for the coming decades.”
West Midlands’ Labour PCC David Jamieson said the deal would deal ensure Warwickshire Police was sustainable.
He added: “This agreement will be delivered at no detriment to the policing delivered in the West Midlands, and Warwickshire will pay for all services received.”
Ben Twomey, Labour’s candidate for the Warwickshire PCC position at May’s election, said Mr Jamieson had ‘come to Warwickshire’s rescue’.
Mr Twomey added: “Our Conservative PCC has publicly acknowledged the breakdown of the alliance with West Mercia has left our own force unsustainable. What a sorry state we are in, caused by a fall out between two Conservative PCCs.
“Thank you to the West Midlands PCC for cooperating with us to restore and maintain effective policing in Warwickshire, at a time when our Conservative neighbours have turned their backs on our county.”
In October 2018, West Mercia Police gave Warwickshire one year’s notice to end their alliance, established in 2013 to save £30million by merging services including firearms, police dog officers, IT, HR and communications.
But as last year’s deadline approached, Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered the forces to stay in the alliance until April and settle a dispute over terms of separation which escalated into a public war of words.
Mr Jelley and Mr Seccombe accused West Mercia of being ‘unreasonable and unrealistic’ in negotiations, saying it was ‘difficult to understand’ West Mercia’s insistence there was strong evidence in favour of ending the alliance. They were particularly angered by West Mercia’s claim it was subsidising Warwickshire Police.
But West Mercia said the force would not be ‘held to ransom’, adding there was evidence from financial scrutiny and police performance inspections the alliance was no longer in their interest.
A Warwickshire Police spokesperson said the ‘majority of business areas’ would be re-established within Warwickshire by April 8, a year ahead of the start of the new alliance with West Midlands.
Mr Jamieson and Mr Seccombe have instructed their forces to carry out further work in order to reach a formal decision in the coming weeks.