DEFIANT members of Cheshire Police Authority have unanimously voted to oppose a merger with Merseyside Police.
This follows an identical decision by Merseyside Police Authority last week but Home Secretary Charles Clarke says he will impose the amalgamation - whether it is wanted or not.
Mr Clarke argues some forces are too small to tackle serious criminality and terrorism.
Chief Constable Peter Fahy told police authority members a merger would lead to better intelligence and financial savings due through sharing backroom facilities, but he still had concerns. He said: 'Our concern is the effect on neighbourhood policing and because of the higher number of incidences in Merseyside we would end up having to send officers across the border.
'This is one of the most
important decisions Cheshire Police Authority has ever made in effectively abolishing itself.
Chairman Peter Nurse said the authority accepted the need for change to tackle serious crime but as a responsible body it did not have sufficient information to know whether to agree or disagree with the proposed merger.
Cllr Nurse had argued for
the retention of Cheshire police within a North West Federation to allow the sharing of resources, but this option was ruled out by the government.
'I think we should continue to slog it out,' said Cllr Nurse. 'This is a democracy and ministers can be challenged by the people and I think they can be challenged by parliament. I don't believe parliament-
arians are that easy a push over.'
However, the meeting heard the Home Secretary was threatening to impose his will on rebellious police authorities using a parliamentary order and such an order had not been defeated since 1969.
Cllr Paul Findlow said: 'What a farce - what a situation for Cheshire to be faced with. It's deplorable.
'It's part of a larger regionalisation agenda by this Government which has a fixation, at our expense.'
CHAIRMAN Peter Nurse said he was particularly concerned a merger could increase Mid Cheshire residents' Council Tax bills.
He said the police's element of the Council Tax bill for a band D household was £102 for Cheshire and £115.68 for Merseyside, representing a difference of 12.7%. He fears Mid Cheshire Council Tax payers will
end up paying more for a worse service. nThe authority voted for a 5.74% increase or an extra £5.89 in its element of the Council Tax which will allow the recruitment of a total of 217.5 full-time equivalents including 92 community support officers, 43 police staff - releasing officers to the front-line plus 29 police officers and 11 staff for protective services.