A POLICE merger that would create a new force responsible for two-and-a-half million people between Land's End and Highcliffe is not an austerity measure, officials say.

As reported in the Daily Echo, plans to merge Dorset Police with Devon and Cornwall Police - creating the fifth largest force in the UK - are to go before the public this summer.

The two forces are already in a strategic alliance, in which a quarter of all staff operate.

The alliance was first discussed in December 2013, when police across the country faced financial concerns.

However, Dorset's police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said the situation has now "stabilised".

"Back in 2013, it was all about saving money," he said.

"We were facing massive cuts and had to come up with a way to find savings. That is no longer the case.

"Funding has since stabilised."

Home secretary Sajid Javid has indicated there may be more money for the force in the future - the first time such a sign has been given in six years, Mr Underhill said.

"This is no longer about money," he added.

"It's about improving our service to the people of Dorset and it's about increasing our frontline and increasing our resilience.

"We can create more savings through efficiency."

If the merger is approved, some top-level roles will be lost, including one police and crime commissioner and one chief constable.

Despite that, Mr Underhill said the plans are "not about egos".

"Since I became commissioner, Devon and Cornwall has lost 1,000 members of staff and Dorset has lost 500. We are down 18 per cent in terms of funding in real terms," he said.

"That is a stark background. This is where the alliance has come from.

"But we have turned that around."

Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police offered a more cautious interpretation of the force's financial situation, but told the Echo there is much to be positive about.

"There is great reason to be optimistic about future funding," he said.

"[The government] seems to have accepted that demand is outstripping supply and policing needs investment."

Anyone who wants to have their say on the merger should visit futurepolicing.co.uk until Monday, August 27 to complete a survey.

The results of the survey will form part of a business case which will be submitted to the Home Office in the autumn.