YORK council chiefs have demanded a meeting with Home Office Minister Hazel Blears to discuss "serious concerns" about the possible merger of North Yorkshire Police with other regional forces.

Coun Andrew Waller, who has responsibility for public safety issues for City of York Council, has joined Harrogate Borough Council in raising major doubts about the plans.

The current proposals are a choice between North Yorkshire Police merging with the West Yorkshire force, or being amalgamated into a Yorkshire and Humber regional force.

"Our concerns are very serious - that we will lose the local link by having this merged force.

"It would cover a vast geographical area and the concern is that the metropolitan areas would swamp us."

Coun Waller said the thinking behind the merger plan was "entirely wrong".

"It's about central government trying to organise local police forces," he said.

Coun Waller said he planned to raise the matter during a meeting of the Association of North Yorkshire Councils today.

Selby MP John Grogan and Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Phil Willis are among the opponents of the merger plan.

The chairman of the Harrogate District Safer Communities Partnership and leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Mike Gardner, has told Ms Blears that the merger is unacceptable and claims it is "regionalisation by the back door".

"North Yorkshire Police is now one of the best performing forces in the country, yet the Government has decided that it should be scrapped, with no good reason and with minimum consultation," he said. "This is a disgraceful situation for such a serious issue.

"We have written in no uncertain terms to tell the minister that we believe North Yorkshire Police should be retained as a separate entity. We think one local police force is the only option for such a large rural district like ours."

North Yorkshire Police and the North Police Authority have been given until December 23 to decide which one of the Government's options they prefer.

Views sought

HUMBERSIDE Police Authority has asked more than 300 community groups and partners for their views on the proposed restructuring of police forces in England and Wales, which could see Humberside Police Force merged with South Yorkshire, or become part of single regional force, covering Yorkshire and Humberside.

These were the options regarded by the Home Office as suitable for further development following Humberside's first submission last month - and after which the other option put forward of merging with North Yorkshire was discarded.

Views on the proposed merger should be sent to

Humberside Police Authority, Pacific Exchange, High Street

Hull, HU1 1PS, or email john.mabbett@humberside.pnn.police.uk

Updated: 10:26 Friday, November 25, 2005