UK's biggest union warns over Surrey Police private sector team-up plan (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
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UK's biggest union warns over Surrey Police private sector team-up plan
4:40pm Monday 25th June 2012 in Local News
The UK's biggest union has attacked the Government over encouraging police forces such as Surrey to look at turning over some of its work to private companies.
UNISON has said the coalition is “playing with fire” by actively encouraging forces to investigate potential team-ups with the private sector.
Citing Surrey Police's joint initiative with West Midlands Police to take bids from private companies to run a range of police services as part of a £1.5 billion contract, the union said the public have already rejected the idea.
It added the coalition is “playing with fire – socially and politically.”
UNISON is urging the Government to give its backing to publicly provided policing, and is warning forces against turning to privatisation as a solution to the coalition’s cuts.
It revealed that a new poll is had carried out showed that almost two thirds of the public – 62% - oppose the plans.
In a statement, the union said: “The results also show that privatisation would erode public trust and confidence in policing – 50% say that they would trust the police less if a private company ran their local services.
“One in four – 25% - would trust their local police force a great deal less.”
The statement continued: “More than half – 53% - reported that they would feel less safe if a private company were answering 999 calls in their area – a quarter – 24% - saying they would feel a great deal less safe.
“In addition, half of British adults – 52% - think that the security and confidentiality of police records would worsen, and nearly half – 46% - think that the standards of service to the public and accountability of the police force to the British public would get worse.”
UNSION added that, according to the poll, more than a third of people – 38% - think that corruption in the police force would get worse, 33% think fairness in how the police treat the public would worsen, and 32% think the police treating all members of the public equally would worsen.
The union also claimed that pressing ahead with police privatisation will cost the Government at the ballot box, including in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections taking place on November 15.
It stated that more than half of the public polled – 53% - said that they would be less likely to support a political party that wanted to use private companies to provide certain police services.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, said: “By actively encouraging police forces to privatise services, the Tory-led coalition is playing with fire – politically and socially.”
Mr Prentis said: “Not only will voters turn away from political parties that support the plans because public trust and confidence in policing will be destroyed, but the moves also have damaging implications for social cohesion.
“In these unsettled times, people need to have confidence in their local police.
“It is clear that privatisation will damage that trust, jeopardising years of work spent in building a more positive relationship between local communities and the police.”
He continued: “The Government has to listen to voters - to the public, who do not want their local police services to be sold off to profit-making private companies.
“As cuts intensify – and there is every reason to believe that they will - the case against privatisation grows only stronger.
“Once private companies take out their profits – as they are obliged to do by their shareholders – the pot of money left to pay for local policing will shrink, leaving the public with a poorer police service.”
UNISON has said that “vital operational functions” such as 999 call handling, crime investigation and forensic work could be among the areas of work turned over by the police to private companies.
However, Surrey Police has said if the team-up with the private sector does go ahead, it will concern some non-front-line back-office areas of its work.
Surrey Police and the Surrey Police Authority (SPA) moved to the next stage of their controversial proposal earlier this month.
The Force, which is exploring the possibility with the West Midlands Police Force to make big savings, announced the bidding companies selected as part of the process, called the business partnering for police programme (BPP).
Six bidding groups will move to the next stage of the process.
They are British Telecommunications, Reliance Secure Task Management and Vanguard Consulting, Capita Business Services, G4S Care & Justice Services, Kellogg Brown & Root and IBM United Kingdom, Logica UK, Amey Community and Northgate Information Solutions, and Serco, HP Enterprise Services, and Accenture.
Surrey and West Midlands have moved to talks with the bidders to explore the ideas and innovations that they could bring to policing.
Last month, the police authorities in Surrey and the West Midlands agreed to proposals by their Forces to move forward with the BPP process, with revised timetables allowing public and staff consultation over the summer.
A Surrey Police spokesman said the extended timescales would allow for a more detailed look at proposals and the opportunity to fully consider options available.
Surrey Police Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm said: “We are entering into a process of public and staff engagement, which is essential in ensuring we provide the best possible policing for Surrey.”
A statement from Surrey Police at the time said: “We are in a formal procurement process governed by European Union law and are not in a position to discuss any detail on the individual companies bidding to work in partnership.
“Throughout the formal procurement process, we will rigorously test the suitability of potential partners and their proposed solutions.
“Any work will be directed through the robust procurement process and governance structure.”
The Forces are exploring the possible private sector team-up 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.
Horley Police Station is among those currently on the market.
Surrey Police Chief Constable Lynne Owens has said the Force and the SPA will hold a public engagement exercise on business partnering, perhaps through focus groups, over the summer, with the results to be reported back to the SPA.
UNISON has said most UK police forces have expressed an interest in privatising some of their services in the future.
It said the interest is set to intensify as cuts to policing worsen, and the Home Office is actively encouraging this process by giving police forces money to explore privatisation options.
The union added: “Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police are expected to press ahead with privatisation plans at their police authority meetings in forthcoming weeks.
“None of these authorities have consulted the public on the plans and are pushing ahead in advance of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November.
“At Lincolnshire Police, the majority of police staff were transferred to G4S in April this year.”