THE multi-million-pound “divorce settlement” between West Mercia Police and a neighbouring force will be recouped by autumn 2021, thanks to savings and a longer payment period negotiated by the commissioner’s team, a report says.

The force, whose territory covers the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, entered the resource-sharing deal with Warwickshire Police in 2012 in an effort to share and reduce costs.

But a report by Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion’s office says the alliance delivered savings early on, but costs disproportionately fell on West Mercia while Warwickshire “rejected” reform attempts.

The document, due to go before the West Mercia Police and Crime Panel next week, says the £10.5 million settlement figure is less than Warwickshire demanded, and, after negotiation, the payment period was extended from an original three months to 16 months “further minimising the financial impact”.

The report says both forces, and their respective PCCs, entered the alliance in 2012.

“The agreement committed West Mercia to resourcing 69 per cent of the alliance’s staff and Warwickshire 31 per cent,” it adds.

“However, in spite of the resourcing commitments, each force had a 50:50 say in governance.

“Initial reports of the partnership delivering in excess of £35 million in savings gradually became less and less relevant as these savings were either reversed over time, or were delivered disproportionately by West Mercia.

“From West Mercia’s perspective, the 50:50 governance arrangement actively prohibited West Mercia from pursuing its optimal strategic options, damaging local policing services and costing taxpayers significant amounts of money.

“Similarly, a business case recommended the alliance having a single operational control centre, based at Hindlip, instead of the then three OCCs across the alliance.

“Warwickshire refused to approve this, and instead insisted on retaining an OCC in Warwickshire.

“The terms of the alliance dictated that West Mercia had no choice but to fund 69 per cent of this OCC, despite it being unnecessary.”

Mr Campion announced his decision to pull West Mercia out of the alliance in October 2018, sparking a negotiation period which ended when the settlement was reached in April 2020.

The report says the £10,500,000 figure is a “necessary investment” and “almost all” of the force’s £235,000,000 annual budget is “now fully disaggregated from the alliance agreement and focussed on West Mercia’s communities and priorities”.

The alliance deal stipulated “reasonable costs” of exiting should be paid within three months of agreeing a figure, but the report says this was changed to 16 months, taking it to September 2021.

Collaboration between the forces continues in some areas, the report adds. IT, transactional support and forensics services are provided under 18-month deals, and an “open-ended” file storage agreement remains in place.

The Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises Mr Campion’s work, will discuss the report when it meets remotely on Monday, June 15.