Surrey Police Authority confirms its withdrawal from controversial police and private sector team-up process (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
Got a story? Call 01273 544544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Surrey Police Authority confirms its withdrawal from controversial police and private sector team-up process
8:51pm Friday 7th September 2012 in Local News
Surrey Police Authority (SPA) has confirmed it is withdrawing from controversial proposals for the county's Force to team up with the private sector in some areas. SPA confirmed its withdrawal from the team-up scheme, called the Business Partnering for Police Programme, at a public meeting in Woking yesterday.
The body, which oversees Surrey Police, had announced it had decided to call a halt to its involvement in the joint Business Partnering programme (BPP) at a previous public meeting in July.
It had indicated that it was minded to withdraw entirely, but SPA members instead agreed that no final decision on withdrawal should be taken until a paper setting out the financial and legal implications of withdrawal could be presented and discussed in public. Yesterday, with a more detailed options paper presented at its public meeting, the SPA confirmed its withdrawal, but stressed it will continue to support Surrey Police as it explores other options for becoming more efficient and effective. In a statement in July announcing its decision to suspend its involvement in the BPP programme, the SPA said the choice 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. In a lengthy debate, SPA members raised 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 motion to suspend its involvement followed, but members 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 Surrey Police 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 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.”
The SPA's announcement was welcomed by UNISON. A poll by ComRes for the union had shown 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 backed 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.