Briefing for MPs Home Affairs Select Committee
Unite and Unison represent Police staff. We are frankly aghast that there is a serious discussion taking place about privatising our police force less than a year after the Home Secretary tasked HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to “[investigate] and consider instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangement and other abuses of power in police relationships”1 as a result of the recent spotlight placed on alleged police corruption.
West Midlands and Surrey Police forces have begun a process of privatising all of what they designate as ‘non-core’ services. These are services that do not require the office of constable, i.e. the powers of arrest. The privatisation would take place through two contracts; firstly, for custody, and the second contract covering all other service areas. It is essential to explain that many of these services are still roles which the public would regard as being, and are, central to the function of the police force and the exercise of their duties. These roles include: Forensic scene investigators, contact centres (first point of contact for calls from the public), arrest referral workers, Police National Computer bureau (handles the updating of all Police National Computer records), analysts (analysis crime patters to assist in the early detection and prevention of crime, for example, high volumes of burglary in an area), economic crime teams (police staff are employed as financial investigators to investigate high value crime), 999 call takers.
In short, the services it is proposed to privatise cover;
• Dealing with confidential, sensitive information
• Crime prevention, detection and investigation
• Police response to 999 calls
• Victim handling and public safety
On 13th March 2012 a bidders conference was held, bringing together interested companies. These included, amongst others; Amey, Accenture, Serco, G4S and many others. The conference also brought together other Police forces – the advert placed in the Official Journal of the European Union allows other police forces to join in with the privatisation process.
We believe this Business Partnership – the privatisation of parts of our police force – will be detrimental to the quality and functioning of those services. It threatens the transparency and accountability of local policing services – two key principles of the Police forces’ commitment to the public. This carries grave implications for the safety of the public and the future integrity of our policing system. The HMIC report Without Fear or Favour highlighted several areas that police forces need to concentrate on to ensure the impartiality and honesty of policing. Most importantly it found that the public believe a service to have integrity not only with being treated fairly, but in also being absolutely transparent and being seen to be fair.
There is no business case that outsourcing will improve services or generate savings
The Home Office has refused to reveal its business case for privatisation; West Midlands and Surrey police forces have agreed to start the competition without seeing a proper business case either. In the case of West Midlands the privatisation is being justified on the grounds of needing to meet the financial reductions in the current Comprehensive Spending Review. However, they already have a budget plan in place to achieve these reductions without the need to privatise services. For the financial year 2011-12 West Midlands Police force has a planned under spend of £9million. In addition, the force has yet to submit their own detailed business case to the Police Authority about the benefits of outsourcing.
The economic case for outsourcing services on the grounds of efficiency has not yet been proven, nor has it been proven that as outsourced service would be of a higher quality or of a lower cost. Across the public sector the empirical evidence over many years does not show that the private sector is more efficient2, and even the IMF admits that “the evidence is mixed”3. There is evidence to demonstrate that in the long-run
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