TOP officers in Dorset believed a planned merger with Devon and Cornwall Police would save more than £88m in a decade - and current savings achieved could be “eroded” now the scheme is off the table.

The merger was officially scrapped in October after a police and crime panel voted in favour of rejecting the plans.

Shortly afterwards, Dorset Police’s Chief Constable James Vaughan warned he is “extremely concerned” for the future.

He said: “The stark reality of our current financial outlook means that we may no longer be able to provide anything but the most basic services to the most vulnerable.”

A business case for the merger had been due to go before officials at the Home Office following an extensive consultation process during the summer.The case was last week made available for members of the public to scrutinise.

It revealed that the existing strategic partnership between both forces is now at a “crossroads”.

Authors wrote: “The lack of a single command and control structure and unified vision for the whole geography [covered by both forces] make delivery [of services] much more problematic.”

Of the 11,828 people who completed a consultation, 1,789 of whom identified as police employees, 45 per cent said the merger seemed like the ‘next logical step’, while 41 per cent disagreed.

In total, 45 per cent of respondents could see the benefits of the merger over working in a strategic alliance, while 38 per cent couldn’t.

The chief constables and police and crime commissioners for both forces failed to agree a business case for the merger in October.

Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez then said she couldn’t support the merger.

Councillors from Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly discussed the business case at a meeting days after Ms Hernandez’s warning and voted to support her position that she was minded to stop the merger. As a result, the proposal was not submitted to the Home Office.

Dorset’s police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said afterwards: “I am frustrated that a politician has stopped a proposal put forward and supported by operational policing leaders.

“Sadly, it seems that the people of Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will now be paying the same for less.”