THE Home Secretary's proposed shake-up of Cumbria and Lancashire police forces under a sweeping review of the UK's policing structure has been met with mixed views.

Cumbria Police Authority expressed its disappointment after Charles Clarke MP told them there was no future for the force as a single entity.

However, Lancashire Police Authority said it was "pleased" that Mr Clarke has shown support for its hopes to merge with Cumbria to create a new strategic force.

Both forces wrote to Mr Clarke last month to express their preference for a merger after the Home Office unveiled plans to modernise police forces to ensure they could meet the demands of serious and organised crime, such as terrorism.

The two were told that they could not remain on their own because they failed to meet criteria set by the Home Office regarding size and capability.

Mr Clarke has now written back to the forces to give them guidance on what direction to pursue.

Both Cumbria and Lancashire have been told to investigate mergers with each other and in addition with Merseyside.

A police force including all of the North West's forces has been ruled out as too large.

Cumbria wants to merge with Lancashire and Merseyside, while Lancashire prefers a merger with Cumbria.

The process which could result in mergers taking place within 18 months has been likened to "speed dating for police forces" by insiders at Cumbria police.

In a statement, Cumbria Police Authority said it still had reservations over any merger and that the public did not share the Home Office's appetite for change.

A Mori opinion poll has revealed 74 per cent of 1,000 people surveyed were against a merger, fearing that policing in Cumbria would suffer as a result.

The authority also believed that bringing Cumbria "up to standard" to meet the Home Office's criteria would prove cheaper than creating a strategic force.

Similar views were expressed at a Cumbria County Council meeting, when members resolved to send a letter to Mr Clarke calling for him to consider again allowing Cumbria Police to continue alone.

But in the letter, which expressed concerns over the potential for job losses, the council also said that if a merger went ahead, it would prefer to see Cumbria link up with Lancashire.

Lancashire police is pushing for its preferred option to be agreed and hoped the inclusion of Merseyside could be discounted through discussions between chief constables and police authorities.

Meanwhile, North Yorkshire police has been told to pursue mergers with West and South Yorks forces and with Humberside, and with just West Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Police Authority said it was still to be convinced that a merger would result in a poorer service and higher crime rates.

A poll conducted by The Westmorland Gazette's website,, has so far revealed that a merger with Lancashire is favoured.

Of the 20 who replied, ten were in favour, while three wanted a merger with Lancashire and Merseyside and seven opposed any merger all together.