Police forces will have to merge to cope with having their budgets slashed by up to a quarter, senior officers have warned.
The existing 43 forces will have to be replaced with larger, more efficient super forces to cut costs.
Sara Thornton, the head of the National Police Chiefs Council, called for the law to be changed to allow forces to ‘amalgamate’ to cope with spending cuts.
Sara Thornton, the head of the Nation Police Chief’s Council, called for the law to be changed to allow forces to ‘amalgamate’ to cope with spending cuts
Nine years ago, the Labour government was forced to shelve plans to cut the number of forces in England and Wales in the face of stiff opposition from police and the Conservatives.
But the need to save millions of pounds has put the idea back on the table.
There is particular criticism of the way each forces buys its own uniforms, equipment and vehicles, often at vastly different costs.
Mrs Thornton said it was time to consider mergers, adding that ‘most would agree that fewer forces is the best option’.
She warned that if ‘the desire is to maintain 43 then forces will need to collaborate more’.
The idea of closer working would be ‘helped by there being a new statutory provision that allows forces that want to work together to amalgamate,’ she told Sky News.
Mrs Thornton added: ‘We’ve dealt with cuts of 25 per cent in Government grant in the last five years and are set for similar following the Comprehensive Spending Review in the Autumn.
‘We’re likely to have lost around 70,000 police posts by 2020. This means we have to make fundamental changes to the way we police otherwise we will fail in our service to the public and unacceptably stress our staff.
‘Improving the way we procure equipment and services will save us some money, as will sharing more within and outside policing. But they won’t solve the problem alone.’
Last year Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe backed mergers, warning that forthcoming cuts in police budgets will endanger the public unless ‘radical action’ is taken.
The eight police forces in Scotland were merged in April 2013, which the Scottish government claimed would save £1.7billion over 15 years
Setting out his blueprint for reform, he said there has been a shift in the types of crime that officers deal with, and offences such as cybercrime and online child sexual exploitation often transcend force boundaries.
He echoed a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary which said forces were stuck in a time warp, using out-dated methods to deal with modern-day offences.
The eight police forces in Scotland were merged in April 2013, which the Scottish government claimed would save £1.7billion over 15 years.
Critics say it is ‘crazy’ that forces in England and Wales continue to buy their kit individually instead of combining their buying power to get a better deal.
For example, the cost of handcuffs can vary between £14 and £43, while police issue boost can cost £25 to £114.