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West Midlands Police ‘privatisation’ plans scrapped

West Midlands Police ‘privatisation’ plans scrapped

🕔22.Nov 2012

Bob Jones, the newly elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, has moved quickly to abandon controversial plans to ask private firms to run some services for the force.

Mr Jones, a Labour PCC, made sure that the symbolism of his first decision in the new role was not lost when he told a press conference that he had moved to scrap the Business Partnering for Police Programme just 10 hours after acquiring legal powers as commissioner.

He has asked Chief Constable Chris Sims to convene a fast-track working party to devise a “technology driven solution” which will enable the force to deliver efficiencies and improvements.

Mr Jones revealed that the force spent £500,000 on drawing up the business partnering plans, but insisted the money would not be wasted because lessons learned from the process would be valuable to the task force. Firms that have provided consultancy services for the programme will have their contracts terminated.

He did not rule out the possibility that a major IT overhaul might be delivered by the private sector, but stressed that all police services would continue to be delivered by staff accountable to the chief constable rather than “any elements being driven by the interests of profits and shareholders”.

The uncompromising stance came as no surprise. Mr Jones, a former Wolverhampton councillor and long-standing member of the police authority, made it clear while electioneering for the PCC post that the business partnering programme was likely to go.

The speed of the decision was unexpected, but will clearly delight trade unions who fought against what they deemed to be police privatisation plans and the thin end of the wedge.

West Midlands Police had been working with Surrey Police on the business partnering programme, an initiative backed by the Home Office.

In March, the two forces invited bids for £1.5 billion of services from private firms.

Companies attending a bidders’ conference in London were told work that could be contracted out included 999 call handling, prisoner transfer and patrolling neighbourhoods.

At the time, Mr Sims confirmed the West Midlands force’s commitment to its privatisation programme.

He said: “Working with the private sector is a real opportunity to bring private sector solutions into policing to really transform the way we work, helping us to deliver improved services at lower cost.

“By working with a business partner we believe we will be able to improve the services we provide to the public and operate more effectively.”

Although the two forces received 264 responses from companies for middle and back office functions Surrey Police pulled out of the process earlier this year.

Mr Sims told the press conference that he welcomed Mr Jones’s announcement.

The chief constable added: “Technology sits at the heart of the radical change that we need to make.”

The full text of Mr Jones’ statement is as follows:

“I know that you will all be aware that the Business Partnering for Policing Programme has been the subject of much public interest, both during the campaign for the election to PCC but also over the year or so since work started on the programme. It has been controversial and there has been much speculation, both locally and nationally, about the future of the Programme following the PCC elections. My former colleagues on the Police Authority always made it clear that it would be a decision for the Police and Crime Commissioner to take on how the Programme would be taken forward.

“It is significant that I sit here today with the Chief Constable, Chris Sims. Chris and I share a vision for the Force which will see technology deliver innovation and new ways of working which I hope we hope will result in radical improvement in the services delivered to those that live and work in the West Midlands. Our intention is to do so even against the backdrop of the financial challenges that we face.

“It is also significant that what I am about to announce is my first decision since taking up office . This attests to the importance I attach to giving clarity to the public and, equally as importantly, to the officers and staff of the Force on the future of the Programme. My decision is that the Business Partnering Programme will cease.

“I have already said that I believe that the priority for action should be work on a technology driven solution which enables police officers and staff to deliver the improvement that both the Chief Constable and I want and believe is needed. The work will be taken forward by a Task Force established by the Chief Constable. Their work will be reported to me in January.

“The Task Force will make use of the learning and experience of the BPP programme team to date. This is to ensure that we make best use of the skills and experience gained through the current programme. I would wish to take the opportunity of paying tribute to the hard work of the Programme Team and the leadership shown by the Chief Constable.

“The Task Force will be able to consider all options for delivery. The Task Force will undertake its work knowing that I wish to see core policing services remain within the police service. Staff and officers exercising police powers and the staff who support them in fulfilling those powers must remain under the direction and control of and accountable to the Chief Constable.

“A consequence of my decision is that the contract with the organisations which have been providing consultancy services to the Programme will also be terminated. The ending of the contract is as a result of my decision to change the policy. Their performance has been entirely in line with the process under which they were engaged. I wish to place on record my thanks to them for their contribution to the work carried out so far.”

 

 

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