POLICE chiefs have welcomed an announcement by Home Secretary John Reid that a time scale for controversial restructuring of the Cheshire force has been relaxed.
Dr Reid accepted concerns about the short time scale which police authorities had to fully consider the proposals and consult their communities on the issue, and said no enforced police force mergers would have to be enacted before the summer Parliamentary recess.
Chairman of Cheshire Police Authority Peter Nurse said: 'This is a welcome step, which will enable the authority to give more time to consider these far-reaching proposals. The authority however, remains concerned at the current proposals for a merger with Merseyside as they stand, particularly in relation to the financial aspects of the proposals.
'However, we accept that the status quo is not an option and will use this extra time to look at the best way forward, which may involve closer collaboration with Merseyside and Manchester police forces.'
The authority was meeting yesterday to consider its latest position. Cllr Nurse added: 'I met the policing minister last week to press upon him the authority's continuing objections to a merger with Merseyside and also ensured the concerns and views expressed by the community were impressed upon him.'
Eddisbury Conservative MP Stephen O'Brien welcomed the move. He said: 'The delay is both as welcome as it is necessary in order for those of us who have resolutely defended Cheshire police to keep on seeking to press upon John Reid and his ministers the importance of looking again at meeting the demands of a modern threat without sacrificing the local community's confidence in our police.
'I am glad to see that my representations together with the steadfast representations of the police authority have had real effect as we all work to find a sensible way forward.'