Wales police merger backed by Gwent chief constable

image captionA welsh police merger has been proposed before, but was rejected

Gwent's chief constable has backed the merger of Wales' four police forces.

Carmel Napier spoke in evidence to the Silk Commission, which is examining whether changes are needed to the devolution settlement.

The eight forces in Scotland have just been brought together with the aim of cutting costs.

But Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Christopher Salmon argued that centralisation could make officers more remote.

The 17,000-strong Police Scotland is now the second largest force in the UK, behind London's Metropolitan Police.

In her recent submission to the commission, Ms Napier said she supported "the principle of a single Welsh police service".

She said that "structural changes alone rarely result in improved service delivery" and they "often instigate a period of disruption and uncertainty".

image captionCarmel Napier has been Gwent chief constable since 2011

"I support the principle of a single Welsh police service based on community policing... however, specialist police services should be organised regionally and supported by a single administrative function".

"The development of a consistent vision for policing is essential to manage local community needs," said Ms Napier.

Idea abandoned

She stressed that "emphasis should be placed on revising the processes and resource allocation to meet demand".

Ms Napier said the idea of devolving power over policing to the Welsh government needed a "full and robust option appraisal," adding that she could see "advantages and disadvantages".

However, Mr Salmon said he believed that "if you make something centralised, you make them more remote from communities."

A proposal to merge the four Welsh forces into one was put forward by Labour's then-Home Secretary Charles Clarke in 2006, but the idea was later abandoned.

At the time, Plaid Cymru welcomed the U-turn but said the Home Office had handled the issue in a "shambolic" way.

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