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South West regional forces agree forensic collaboration

Police forces in the South West have agreed to pursue a new regional forensic services collaboration, aiming to provide a new streamlined state-of-the-art service at a lower cost.

Phase 1 of the scheme looks at Fingerprint Bureaux, Chemical Enhancement Laboratories and Forensic Submissions Units. The proposals could initially save the five forces involved – Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Dorset and Wiltshire – a total of around £1.9 million.

The collaboration programme, led by Dorset Police, has been given the green light at a South West regional meeting of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables, hosted at the Portishead police headquarters of Avon and Somerset yesterday, Wednesday 27 November 2013.

Dorset’s Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said: “Today’s meeting is an important development for regional collaboration and will help all five forces work toward a more efficient and effective forensic service provision.

“In the coming months we will engage with all forensic staff across the five force areas to ensure that the best possible service is provided in the South West while also identifying the required savings.”

The decision to collaborate follows several months of negotiation between the forces in an effort to reduce budgets and increase efficiency for the future. It will mean forces sharing systems and services and adopting a similar process to inter force systems already in place in other parts of the UK.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “This is another example of collaboration in the South West, achieving improved service delivery at a reduced cost.

"The current total cost of the Phase 1 forensic services across the five forces is £10.8m, with the initial potential savings identified from the proposals standing at £1.9m.

However by 2018-19 it is forecast that savings from the collaborative project could be as high as £6.6m.

As part of the plans, the new service will be headed up by a Head of Forensic Services for the South West region.

The new arrangements will complement existing regional initiatives such as Zephyr (the dedicated team set up to combat serious organised crime); Special Branch; and Regional Procurement.

This collaboration programme will now continue to look at Phase 2, Digital Forensics, and Phase 3, Crime Scene Investigation, during 2014.

Issued: 28 November 2013