THE Police Federation has questioned whether a force should look to its northern counterparts rather than its Yorkshire neighbours to merge its firearms, intelligence and dog sections.

Mark Botham, chairman of the North Yorkshire branch of the police welfare and efficiency group, said preliminary discussions over the money-saving plan to unite the departments at the North, West and South Yorkshire and Humberside forces had sparked concerns.

Senior officers say collaborating in specialist areas, such as firearms training and dog sections would strengthen their capability and cut costs.

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The four forces already have joint arrangements to tackle serious and organised crime, road crime, forensic and crime scene investigation and underwater searches.

Chief Inspector Jim Haylett said merged units could give extra capability and capacity.

He said: “In a lot of cases, it is about delivering a return on investment, because no force wants specialist officers or equipment not being used for three or four days in a week because demand is not there.”

The proposals for firearms could be implemented by April, and would involve centralising training procedures with a single chief firearms instructor to cover the forces.

The Police Federation branch, which represents 98.5 per cent of police officers in North Yorkshire, said the proposals could lead to specialist officers being based far from where they may be needed.

The branch believes the proposals have similarities to the previous government’s failed attempt to consolidate England and Wales’ police forces into 12 units, as they could result in North Yorkshire not getting its fair share of officers’ time.

Mr Botham said: “In terms of demand, North Yorkshire is not on a par with other forces which have some of the largest cities in the country, including Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

“The other dynamic will be what the police and crime commissioners think about this and whether it will deliver value for taxpayers in their areas.”

He questioned if police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan would consider work with Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria, which some officers believe could develop bases closer to parts of North Yorkshire.

He said: “While the proposals are quite attractive in theory, there needs to be some recognition that we are the largest county in England and are bordered by several other forces and reassurances that services will not diminish.”