The row over plans to merge police forces in the West Midlands was reignited last night after one of the under-threat forces was officially named the best in the country.
Annual assessments published by the Home Office named West Mercia Police as an "excellent" force, and gave it the highest rating of any constabulary in England and Wales.
But Police Minister Hazel Blears insisted there would be no turning back from plans to merge the force, which covers Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire.
The Government believes forces with fewer than 4,000 officers lack the resources to deal with terrorism, organised crime and offences involving technology.
It has ordered them to draw up merger proposals.
The preferred option for the West Midlands is believed to be one huge force, taking in West Mercia Police, West Midlands Police, Staffordshire Police and Warwickshire Police, serving five million people. But MP Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire) said: "These figures show West Mercia is the best constabulary in the country, and yet the Government is intent on destroying it."
West Mercia Police received a rating of "excellent". The Home Office also gave it " excellent" ratings for investigating crime and use of resources.
Warwickshire and Staffordshire Police - also under pressure to merge - both received ratings of "good".
West Midlands Police received an overall rating of "good", and "excellent" for response to emergencies.
Plans for a single "strategic force" face strong opposition, after eight Conservative MPs from the region vowed to fight them.
Earlier this week the MPs, including Mr Luff, met West Mercia Chief Constable Paul West in the Commons to discuss their campaign.
Mr Luff said: "Forcing West Mercia to merge with West Midlands would be an act of vandalism."
But Labour MP Mike Foster (Worcester) said: "We should let West Mercia consider all of the options based on the evidence, not based on political opportunism."
Ms Blears said yesterday's assessments did not look at "strategic issues" such as dealing with terrorism or high- tech crime, where smaller forces were struggling.
West Midlands Police was named second-best performer among urban forces, as determined by the Home Office, such as Merseyside and Greater Manchester. Northumbria, which covers Newcastle and Sunderland, came first. However, the performance of West Midlands Police in investigating crime had deteriorated in the past year, the Home Office warned.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The main challenge for the force is to reverse the disappointingly low detection rate for all volume crime which has fallen below average, placing the force bottom of its peer group."
Paul Scott-Lee, West Midlands Police Chief Constable, said: "This reflects the professionalism and hard work of officers and staff and translates into year upon year crime reductions and more than 45,000 fewer crime victims in the last two years."
He added: "There are still areas where we need to make further progress and we have launched a number of action plans to address those."
The 43 police forces in England and Wales were assessed in seven categories.