Sunday, 10 September 2017

Good news and bad news: Devonwall and a police merger?

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian unsurprisingly covers the latest news about the parliamentary boundary review and the proposed police merger. It will be as follows:

As someone who has campaigned against the imposition of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency, I am delighted to see that newspapers have been reporting the intention of the Prime Minister to scrap the ongoing Boundary Review.

Senior Conservatives have said that their attempt to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 is doomed to failure, and the “fierce local arguments that would ensue over precise seat boundaries” would be “profoundly unhelpful” to a Government, without an overall majority, trying to grapple with Brexit.

The UK Government may not have listened to our specific arguments about the importance of protecting the territorial integrity of Cornwall, but at least this latest shift – if true – means that a “Devonwall” constituency has been averted, at least for now.

I am still nervous as there has been the occasional report that Theresa May intends to press on with the Review and, until it is formally ended, the Boundary Commission is continuing its work.

And yet, assuming that the main reports are accurate, it would mean that a new review of parliamentary seats – based on the existing number of 650 MPs – would commence at some point in the future.

We therefore still need to be extremely vigilant and to continue our campaigns for Cornwall to be treated as a distinct entity for the purposes of governance.

But at the same time that we heard the good news about the Devonwall seat proposal, the Chief Constables of the Devon & Cornwall and Dorset police forces announced plans to explore “closer working” which include the possibility of a full merger.

Some news reports state that they deem a merger to be inevitable because of deep cuts to their funding from the Conservative Government.

It is well-documented that, prior to coming to power in 2010, they promised to protect policing, with the-then shadow Home Secretary Nick Grayling pledging to put “more police on the street … fighting crime and protecting local communities.”

But since then, public desks at police stations have closed, the number of police officers has fallen drastically, PCSOs are being phased out and now we have added insult of a proposed merger of forces – with the blame being placed on government under-funding.

These broken promises have had a devastating on local policing and I most certainly cannot support the further centralisation of power into a larger police area.

It is my view that we should be putting pressure on central government to provide increased funding for local policing and to reintroduce a distinct Cornwall Police Force.

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