Essex Police said it will stand its ground against the Home Secretary and refuse to merge voluntarily with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire forces.

Essex Police Authority said it would now send a revised business case to Charles Clarke setting out how the two main areas of contention - major incidents and counter terrorism - could be improved without the merger.

It added that by standing alone it could also increase its resource levels to the standards required of the Home Office by December 2009, at a lower cost to the council taxpayer than if the force was merged with Beds and Herts.

Members of the authority and the Chief Constable Roger Baker said they believed their revised plan would "more than meet the Home Office standard for a stand-alone strategic force".

Robert Chambers, chairman of the authority, said: "There is a strong feeling within the authority that Essex Police should remain as a stand-alone force to ensure it maintains its local links with the people of Essex and continues to give them the very high standards of policing service that they want."