UK to privatise police
[Dawn] PRIVATE companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two of the largest police forces in the country.
West Midlands, in central England, and Surrey, in south-east England, have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.
The contract is the largest on police privatisation so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved.
This scale dwarfs the recent £200m contract between Lincolnshire police in northeast England, and G4S, under which half the force's civilian staff is to join the private security company, which will also build and run a cop shoppe for the first time.
The interior minister, Theresa May, who has imposed a 20 per cent cut in grants on forces, has said frontline policing can be protected by using the private sector to transform services provided to the public, but this is the first clear indication of what that will mean in practice. May said on Thursday that she hoped the 'business partnership' programme would be in place next spring.
A 26-page 'commercial in confidence' contract note seen by the Guardian has been sent to potential bidders to run all services that "can be legally delegated to the private sector". They do not include those that involve the power of arrest and the other duties of a sworn constable.
Companies who have applied through the Bluelight emergency services e-tendering website have been invited to a 'bidders' conference' on March 14, with an anticipated contract start date of next February.
The timetable for the programme means it will be subject to final sign-off by the first police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands after their election in November. The existing police authority only gave the go-ahead for the tendering stage last month after a "robust and forthright discussion" which ended with a rare 11-5 split vote.
The joint West Midlands/ Surrey 'transformation' programme, which has strong backing from the Home Office, looks set to redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.
The programme has the potential to become the main vehicle for outsourcing police services in England and Wales. It has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has moved to the Metropolitan (London) police from being Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals and patrolling neighbourhoods.
Posted by: Fred