POLICE have disputed claims a failed merger between two forces “wasted” almost £380,000 – or the cost of the salaries for around 19 brand new full-time PCs.

Plans to merge Dorset Police with the force covering Devon and Cornwall were called off in October 2018 after one of the area’s police and crime commissioners withdrew her support for the move.

Yesterday, it was reported on the BBC that Andy Berry of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation said he was “horrified” such a “large amount of money has been wasted”.

However, a joint statement issued by Dorset’s police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill and Chief Constable James Vaughan disputes the £380,000 claim.

The statement reads: “The possibility of a merger of the two forces was fully explored between September 2017 and October 2018.

“A small team coordinated the merger programme, bringing together work from across both forces to produce a full business case for the merger.

“Although the decision was not to progress with the merger at this time, the work carried out so far produced a robust business case which sets out the case for the merger and could be used in future discussions.

“This information is now being used to inform and strengthen our existing alliance arrangements as we look to continue to develop the collaborative work between our two forces.

“The business case can also be used to inform wider national learning on police collaboration and merger proposals in the future.

"There is now an established strategic alliance programme between the forces which has seen significant efficiencies and better working since the agreement was signed in 2015."

Due to the relative sizes of the two police forces, Devon and Cornwall Police funded 70 per cent of the merger programme. The reaming 30 per cent was funded by Dorset Police.

The allocated budget for the merger programme in 2018/19 was £200,000. The forecast expenditure for the same period is £233,725, police say.

The alliance of both forces was awarded £50,000 government funding through the Police Transformation Fund for the financial year 2017/18. This grant was used to fund the outline business case for the proposed merger, and this resulted in a net spend of £12,059 in 2017/18.

Plans for the merger collapsed after Mr Underhill's counterpart Alison Hernandez said she couldn't back the business case.

The two police and crime commissioners had differences of opinion over the weighting given to some of the public consultation methods.

A further row unfolded over council tax precept.

One option was for a £12 increase in Devon and Cornwall and a £6 reduction in Dorset.