Tony Blair threw a lifeline to West Mercia Police yesterday when he said it may escape abolition if residents object to merger proposals.
His comments came after Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, endorsed "the sensible proposals" to create a regional super-force by merging the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and West Mercia forces.
T he Prime Minister insisted every option must be considered, including allowing forces to remain independent if they co-operate more closely.
It would mean West Midlands Police took over responsibility for certain resource-intensive issues, such as combating terrorism, for smaller forces such as West Mercia.
But in other ways, West Mercia Police would be allowed to continue as it is.
The Prime Minister's comments represent a major U-turn, as this option has already been rejected by the Home Office.
However, he over-ruled it in the House of Commons yesterday.
Warwickshire, Stafford-shire and West Midlands are backing proposals for a merger of all four forces to create a regional "strategic" force covering five million people, but West Mercia is opposed to the scheme and is battling to survive.
The Prime Minister was quizzed by Worcestershire MP Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire).
Mr Blair told him: "It is important we listen to local people and I assure him we will do so.
"There are many different things that could happen, including forces coming together for certain strategic tasks that they can better fulfil in a common rather than on a singular basis.
"We will listen very care-fully to what people say."
The Government insists reforms are needed after an independent inquiry warned smaller forces, with fewer than 4,000 officers, lacked the resources to deal with organised crime or complicated fraud and murder cases.
Paul West, Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, and Paul Deneen, Chair of West Mercia Police Authority, were at Westminster yesterday to meet Home Office Minister Hazel Blears and press the case against a merger.
A force spokesman said: "They each put several points to her. They then met all local West Mercia MPs, who were complimentary about the way the force had gathered its business case and put its submission together."
An official assessment published by the Home Office last year named West Mercia as an "excellent" force, and gave it the highest rating of any constabulary in England and Wales.