HR challenge as Home Office finalises police merger plans

HR professionals working in police forces across England and Wales face a daunting few months as the government’s controversial proposals to merge the 43 divisions take shape.

The changes could result in “the biggest reform of policing that the country has seen for 30 years”, according to Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers. “We will be seeking assurance that this will not affect the working arrangements of current staff,” she said.

The mergers will inevitably mean cuts to back office jobs including HR, according to Vince Hislop, director of HR at Bedfordshire Police. “There will be some casualties along the way, especially in support services,” he said.

The move has faced strong opposition, with just 27 forces agreeing with the Home Office plans, and 14 wanting to “stand alone,” according to the Association of Police Authorities (APA).

APA chairman Bob Jones said the plans were a “disgrace”. “The home secretary is blatantly trying to bribe and bully us into abolishing local police forces,” he said.

But David Williams, director of personnel at West Midlands Police, said the proposals were good news for HR. “We could do a lot more through shared services, knowledge and skills,” he said. “We can bring together a whole range of issues, such as occupational health and employee relations.”

Keith Watkinson, director of personnel and training at West Yorkshire Police, agreed.

“The HR function will become more strategic,” he said. “I hope decisions are taken soon to prevent staff uncertainty – people want to know which force they will be working for.”

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