West Midlands police chiefs have admitted they were left stunned at the dramatic decision by the Staffordshire force to back out of plans to share resources.
The two forces were in the advanced stages of drawing up plans to share armed response, dog support, dog training, tactical planning and roads policing.
And the Post understands that Staffordshire did not even tell West Midlands police about the decision to pull out before they went public.
The plans, which were due to bring in savings of around £2.5 million, have been scrapped after a review ordered by Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner, Matthew Ellis, which he said found ‘limited’ financial or service benefits for the smaller force.
Both forces already share a number of services with others forces, including police air support and counter-terrorism work, but the inclusion of firearms, dogs and roads policing have been in the pipeline since 2011.
Bob Jones, police commissioner for West Midlands Police, said he was disappointed by the decision.
He warned that it could lead to charges for Staffordshire to use facilities it currently gets for free – like the state-of-the-art firing range owned by the West Midlands.
He added: “We wanted this our collaboration to be extended with Staffordshire.
“We are obviously disappointed by the decision. We believe that it would have provided greater resilience and financial savings for both forces.
“I am yet to see the calculations for why this decision has been made, but I do hope to see them in due course.
“We thought this made sense for the West Midlands force and even more sense for the Staffordshire force.
“In fact, it may well not cost us an awful lot more to operate in percentage terms, but it will cost Staffordshire considerably more. I am confident we can make some amendments to make sure the service levels will continue, but it will not be at the same degree of value and resilience as it would have been under these plans.”
Commissioner Jones said he was confident that any extra costs could be covered in the West Midlands and warned that the bigger force could start charging its smaller neighbour for use of some of its facilities.
He added: “If we do not have that partnership we will have to look closely at any costs.
“We need to make sure that any of those costs are recovered for the people of the West Midlands.
“For example, we currently do not charge Staffordshire to use our firing range, but that may need to change in the future.
“We are disappointed here in the West Midlands but the new PCC has reviewed the situation and they are entitled to make their own judgement.”
The Staffordshire review, which was ordered by Commissioner Ellis and conducted by chief constable Mike Cunningham found there were few significant financial or service benefits from sharing services.
Mr Ellis said: “There are some benefits but the review by the chief constable has found the operational case is not strong enough to support the original collaboration proposals.
“It’s important that Staffordshire benefits from any collaboration with any other force or any other organisation.
“But it must be the right fit and the benefits must be very strong for Staffordshire people. In this case I don’t believe those benefits are clear enough and the chief constable has confirmed that with his thorough review of the proposals.”
Mr Cunningham, added: “A detailed operational review of current proposals has now taken place and whilst we found some capability, capacity and resilience benefits, it’s clear that the operational case for going ahead isn’t there. Nor do the proposals give Staffordshire taxpayers the value for money we expected”.
“I am absolutely committed to playing a full and active role in any collaboration which has clear operational benefits, improves public safety and provides taxpayers with value for money.”
Meanwhile police bosses in the West Midlands have hailed figures showing a fall in crime of nearly 12 per cent.
Falls in burglaries, robberies and crimes against business all contributed to the 11.7 per cent drop between April 2012 and March 2013 when compared to the previous 12 months.
Around 23,000 fewer victims of crime were recorded across the region over the same period with the number of victims falling to 170,721.
Assistant chief constable Sharon Rowe said the latest figures were promising but said recent events, including the fatal stabbing of schoolgirl Christina Edkins, could not be taken lightly, and officers would continue in the fight against crime.