Halt called to Surrey Police's steps towards a possible team-up with the private sector (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
Got a story? Call 01273 544544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Halt called to Surrey Police's steps towards a possible team-up with the private sector
1:24pm Monday 16th July 2012 in News
Surrey Police has called a halt to its moves looking into controversial proposals to team up with the private sector.
Surrey Police Authority (SPA), the body responsible for overseeing Surrey Police, last week decided to suspend its involvement in the joint Business Partnering for Police (BPP) programme.
In a statement, the SPA said its decision was made because its members thought the BPP was “unlikely to be brought to a fruitful conclusion.”
Along with West Midlands Police, the Surrey Force and authority had been exploring a possible private sector team-up in certain areas of its work, to make savings in the face of an uncertain economic climate and possible cuts.
Surrey Police's recent restructuring overhaul, spending cuts and savings drive has included the sale and putting up for sale of some redundant police stations and buildings, with Horley Police Station among those currently on the market.
The BPP was another avenue being explored with Surrey Police saying if the proposed team-up went ahead, some non-front-line back-office areas of its work could be carried out by a contracted private company.
However, the proposals were slated by, among others, UNISON, the UK's biggest union, who said the Government was “playing with fire”by actively encouraging forces to investigate potential team-ups with the private sector.
Last week, having moved forward with the BPP in June, with revised timetables allowing public and staff consultation over the summer, the SPA announced a halt to its involvement in the BPP and said it was “minded to withdraw altogether from the programme, subject to a more detailed options paper which will be presented at its next public meeting on September 6.”
The motion at an SPA meeting followed a lengthy debate with members raising concerns about the impending arrival of Police and Crime Commissioners, and whether it would be right to continue to spend money on a programme with an increasingly uncertain future.
The members also agreed it was vital to continue to look for ways to become more efficient, mindful of the budget gap facing Surrey Police going forward.
A statement from the SPA and the Force said the authority “will continue to consider opportunities to collaborate with other police forces, develop relationships with other public services and, if appropriate, revisit the benefits of partnering with a private sector organisation.”
SPA chairman Peter Williams said: “From the outset, this authority has been clear that business partnering was an exploratory exercise designed to see whether the private sector, working in partnership with Surrey and the West Midlands, could help deliver service improvements and financial savings through transformation of the way in which we do particular parts of our business.”
He said: “We know that November will bring significant changes to police accountability and governance with the arrival of the first Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC).
“We have, of course, been aware of these changes and indeed during the process to date had amended our plans accordingly to ensure that a PCC – and not the authority – would have taken any final decision on the signing of contracts.”
He continued: “There have been accusations in the media that BPP amounts to the privatisation of policing, which we have always maintained is simply not the case.
“Nevertheless, this has been, and still is, a key theme of some of those seeking election as PCCs, as well as others who are opposed to the very idea in principle.”
He said: “Potential PCC candidates are now actively campaigning to put a stop to BPP and the authority agreed that it would be not be prudent to continue to invest Surrey tax payers’ money in a programme that seems unlikely to be brought to a fruitful conclusion.”
He added: “We have learnt a great deal from the time and money invested in the programme thus far, but we have always maintained that we would be prepared to exit the process if it became apparent that significant benefits to Surrey Police, and thus to the Surrey public, were unlikely to be achieved.
“Members agreed today that it is right that we should suspend our involvement in the programme at this time, and that we should look to withdraw altogether following a more detailed assessment of our options in September.”
The SPA's announcement was welcomed by UNISON.
Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for police and justice, said: “We are pleased that Surrey Police has seen the light and dropped its plans to privatise vital local services.”
He said: “The sell-off plans are deeply unpopular with the public, and would make people feel less safe.
“Today, police staff sent bosses at West Midlands Police Authority a strong message that we want the sell-off plans to be dropped.”
He continued: “The problems that G4S has had delivering on the Olympics contract exposes one of the many pitfalls of hiving off services to the private sector.
“The Government may claim that risk is transferred, but in reality it is not.
“When things go wrong, the public sector has to come to the rescue and the taxpayer ends up paying twice.”
A poll by ComRes for the union showed that almost two thirds – 62% - of the public oppose privatisation of police services, and 50% said they would trust the police less if a private company ran their local services.
The poll also revealed that political parties who back police privatisation would lose votes, with 53% asked saying they would be less likely to support a political party that wanted to use private companies to provide certain police services, and more than one in three saying it would make them much less likely.