The body representing police authorities in England and Wales last night claimed they had rebelled against Home Secretary Charles Clarke by refusing to submit full plans for controversial force mergers.
Bob Jones, chairman of the Association of Police Authorities and a West Midlands Police Authority member, accused Mr Clarke of seeking to "divide and rule" leaders of the 43 forces.
No police authority had submitted a full business case in time for today's Home Office deadline, despite Mr Clarke's offer of financial incentives to agree on creating as few as 12 "strategic forces", he said.
However, the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Warwickshire police authorities have signed up to the merger subject to some conditions.
They believe the merger would be the best thing for the future of local policing but are seeking clarification from the Government about issues surrounding finance, governance and human resources before they will submit a full business plan.
Responding to the APA's claims, the West Midlands Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee last night said: "As evidenced at the press conference today, the three police authorities and three chief constables of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and West Midlands believe that the future policing of this area would be better served by a single strategic force which also would include the area currently policed by West Mercia. (West Mercia do not support this proposal and wish to remain independent).
"A business case outlining this proposal has been signed by all parties and will be submitted to the Home Secretary by 23 December.
"Issues in respect of finance, governance and human resources will have to be resolved with the Home Secretary before the business case can be taken to the next stage."
According to the APA, only 13 forces wanted a merger, 13 wanted to remain as "stand alone" and another 15 have not expressed a preference. The reform does not apply to the Met or City of London police.
Coun Jones, a former chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority, said: "Charles Clarke's offer of financial inducements to police authorities that agree before Christmas to voluntary mergers was an attempt to divide and rule and it discriminated against those police authorities who believe this complex matter should not be rushed." ..SUPL: