More upheaval for police HR as merger plan is challenged

HR professionals working in the Police Service face more uncertainty after a number of forces and local authorities announced their intention to launch legal challenges against the government’s controversial merger plans.

Both Cleveland Police Authority and West Mercia Police Authority began High Court proceedings against the Home Office last week in a bid to prevent merger plans going ahead.

Four councils in the West Midlands have since followed suit and are taking legal action against the government, claiming they had not been properly consulted. The National Assembly for Wales has also sought legal advice over the merger of four forces in Wales, while Essex is considering action.

The Home Office has already set up an HR working group, with representatives from the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers to co-ordinate HR policy for the restructuring programme.

But, if Cleveland wins the right to stand alone, it could set a precedent and mean even more upheaval for HR professionals within the police sector.

Cleveland Police Authority argued that the process – part of the Home Office’s national plan to cut the forces from 43 to 24 to increase efficiency – was “unfair, irrational and perverse”.

Dave McLuckie, chairman at Cleveland, said it had tried repeatedly to meet home secretary John Reid without success, meaning that legal proceedings were the only alternative.

However, Reid, who replaced Charles Clarke as home secretary, has indicated that the Home Office position may change, admitting that the government may need to slow down the merger process.

“We may start going from A to B at a slightly different pace, in a slightly different vehicle and with more people on the bus than originally anticipated,” he said.

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