Plans to create a huge regional police force by merging four existing constabularies have been condemned by Conservative leader David Cameron.
The Government plans to merge West Midlands Police, West Mercia Police, Staffordshire Police and Warwickshire Police to create a giant service covering five million people.
The proposal is backed by three of the forces, but has been condemned as "scandalous" by Paul West, Chief Con-stable of West Mercia.
Yesterday he was supported by Mr Cameron, who accused Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, of rushing the proposals through.
The Home Office argues mergers are needed because existing smaller forces do not have the resources or expertise to deal with major incidents such as terrorist threats, organised crime or complex murder cases.
However, the Conservative leader backed alternative proposals put forward by the Association of Police Authorities to allow forces to share services.
It would mean a larger force such as West Midlands might take responsibility for issues such as terrorism on behalf of neighbouring constabularies.
But in other ways, smaller forces would continue to operate independently.
Criticising the Home Secretary, Mr Cameron said: "His scheme is being driven through too fast, without proper debate or consultation, and reckless of the cost.
"The Association of Police Authorities estimates these to be between £500 and £600 million.
"They also point out that police forces could increase their efficiency by sharing services - a solution that I back.
"But the most serious objection to police force amalgamation is the implication for local accountability.
"Local police will be directed by Chief Constables who could be hundreds of miles away from the communities they serve."
Mr Cameron also set out a series of reforms designed to make police more accountable to the public which are likely to be controversial with officers - including making it easier to sack them.
He also called for a crack-down on the number of officers on full pay but kept on restricted duties through sickness.
Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said the Government was already committed to going further than Mr Cameron in many areas.
"I'm afraid Mr Cameron is a little bit behind the times; very light on detail in his speech and much of the things that he has mentioned we are already doing and going further."
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Clarke said he would not allow the opposition of West Mercia Police to stop the "sensible proposals" supported by the other forces from going ahead.