A QUARTER of a million pounds was spent on the failed merger between Devon and Cornwall and Dorset Police.

Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, confirmed that the project to explore a potential merger had cost the two forces £200,000. That was split on a 70:30 basis between her force and Dorset’s, with the Home Office providing an additional grant of £50,000.

Questions about the cost of the abandoned merger were raised after Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said directly it had cost around £500,000 when he appeared at the Dorset County Council Safeguarding, Overview and Scrutiny committee.

But both offices of the Police and Crime Commissioners have confirmed that the total figure was £250,000, and Ms Hernandez said that it was right that the implications of a potential merger were properly explored and as a result of this work and the feedback, she decided that there was not enough support for the merger to go ahead.

She added: “The two police forces have a combined budget of well over £400m and employ more than 7,000 people so it was right and proper that we explored in detail the implications of a potential merger on them and, importantly, the public that they serve.

“It was also vitally important that people up and down the Westcountry had the chance to have their say about the proposed changes, and it was because of this feedback that I decided that there was not enough support for an enlarged force serving the three counties.”

She also said that the decision not to proceed as freed up 30 senior officers to once again focus on frontline policing, and the consultation exercise made it clear that the public wanted more visible policing.

Ms Hernandez added: “Deciding not to proceed has had a positive effect in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in that it has freed up 30 senior officers from headquarters who are now able to focus on frontline policing once again. I believe that’s where the public want them.

“The exercise in consulting the public was extremely valuable in that it gave me and my team a better understanding of people’s thoughts about our police force. For example, we listened to the fact that there was a desire for an uplift in officer numbers and more visible policing and I have been able to build a proposed budget for the next financial year that will deliver exactly that.”

A statement from the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner said that the possibility of a merger of the two forces uniting Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police into a new police force was fully explored between September 2017 and October 2018.

A small team coordinated the merger programme, bringing together work from across both forces to produce a Full Business Case (FBC) for the merger.

They added: “It was agreed that, due to the relative sizes of the two police forces, Devon & Cornwall Police would fund 70 per cent of the merger programme and 30 per cent would be funded by Dorset Police.

“The allocated (indicative) budget for the merger programme in 2018/19 was £200,000. The forecast expenditure for the same period is £233,725. The strategic alliance was awarded £50,000 Government funding through the Police Transformation Fund for the financial year 2017-2018. This grant was used to fund the outline business case for the proposed merger, and this resulted in a net spend of £12,059 in 2017/18.

“We would like to state that, although the decision is not to progress with the merger at this time, the work carried out so far has produced a robust Full Business Case (FBC) which sets out the case for the merger and could be used in future discussions. Information within the FBC will now be used to inform and strengthen our existing Alliance arrangements as we look to continue to develop the collaborative work between our two forces.

“The Full Business Case can also be used to inform wider national learning on police collaboration and merger proposals in the future.”