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20 July 2012 | Paul Snell
Contracts for outsourced police services should not be signed until a review of providers’ capability to fulfill contracts has been conducted, according to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
In a speech yesterday Miliband said the problems with the Olympic security contract had raised concern about the outsourcing of police functions. “The scandal over G4S has raised wider questions about the outsourcing of policing all over the country,” he said.
He added before G4S - and other firms - were awarded new police contracts, their ability to deliver should be reviewed. He also said more regulation was necessary to rule out over-reliance on suppliers. “The G4S scandal shows the risks of policing relying on one private firm. We need tougher rules to avoid large firms from being able to monopolise policing functions,” he said.
The opposition leader said it should be clear what police duties should and should not be outsourced. He highlighted the ‘Business Partnering for Police’ programme, where forces in Surrey and the West Midlands would sign deals with the private sector to handle certain responsibilities.
“The West Midlands and the Surrey contract with the private sector puts a wide range of functions up for grabs. The initial tender promoted by the government included criminal investigations and beat patrol,” said Miliband.
Last week Surrey Police Authority decided to suspend its involvement in the ‘Business Partnering for Police’ programme, and said it was in mind to withdraw from the scheme altogether. West Midlands Police Authority said it would continue, but postponed the selection of a partner business until the election of a local police and crime commissioner in November.
But Miliband argued he was not against outsourcing by the police as a general rule. “Public private partnerships are an important part of modern policing, as the last Labour Government recognised. Where there are clear savings on back office functions, such as police IT, police forces should have the flexibility to use the private sector. We should not jump to the conclusion that the private sector can never be involved in public services,” he said.
According to CIPS CEO David Noble, good outsourcing deals start and end with an understanding of the objectives and benefits.
“Understanding the risks involved can save money and reputational damage. Keeping your supplier close and having an open, honest relationship ensures any danger of things going wrong is reduced, or at least spotted early and corrected,” he said.