Cuts could force armed officers to merge

All change? Firearms police could be deployed to incidents in North Yorkshire and Humberside.

All change? Firearms police could be deployed to incidents in North Yorkshire and Humberside.

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SOUTH Yorkshire Police are considering merging their armed officer unit with those of neighbouring forces as part of their response to Government budget cuts.

Under the mooted plans, the region’s firearms police could be deployed to incidents in West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as to local emergencies, while other forces could find themselves called to South Yorkshire.

But the new arrangements would not mean the creation of a central headquarters for armed officers.

Instead, the units would remain based in different counties.

The proposed measure comes after South Yorkshire Police’s budget was slashed by £15 million over the next 12 months, with a £40 million reduction expected over the next four years.

Mark Whyman, temporary deputy chief constable for the Yorkshire and Humber region, confirmed the area’s four forces are considering pooling their armed officers.

“As a four force collaboration we are looking into the possibility of establishing regional arrangements for a number of policing functions, one of which is a firearms capability,” he said.

“We are currently undergoing a strategic threat and risk assessment in order that we can better understand how this arrangement should be constituted and the extent of the savings that could be made for all concerned.”

Forces across Yorkshire and the Humber already have specialist units set up to tackle cross-border crime and collect intelligence on serious organised crime groups. These include the regional roads policing team, set up in 2008.

It also includes the regional intelligence unit which assists forces in smashing organised criminal gangs.

The regional asset recovery team uses Proceeds of Crime Act laws to strip convicted criminals of their illegal assets.

According to figures from the South Yorkshire Police Authority, more than 80 per cent of the force’s budget is spent on employees and 100 officers and 350 police staff could lose their jobs over the next year.

Charles Perryman, the authority’s chair, said: “We acknowledge these are difficult times, but the authority is committed to continuing to provide an efficient and effective police service to the people of South Yorkshire.

“We are working with the chief constable to change the shape of South Yorkshire Police by developing more efficient processes which achieve value for money and improved productivity.”