West Midlands and Surrey Police 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.
The list of private policing activities includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.
This follows the recent £200m contract between Lincolnshire police and G4S, under which half the force’s civilian staff are to join the private security company, which will also build and run a police station for the first time. The joint West Midlands/Surrey “transformation” programme, with backing from the Home Office, has set out to completely redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.
The programme has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has just moved to the Metropolitan police from the post of Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers. A West Midlands police authority spokesman said: “Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business – improving the service provided to the public.
A number of other forces, including Cleveland, Avon and Somerset, and Cheshire, have been exploring the services that might be offered to the private sector, albeit on a smaller scale. Cleveland police have a 10-year contract with IT firm Steria and Reliance security runs Cleveland’s custody suites. They provide call handling, front desk staffing, and aspects of the criminal justice system on top of computer services, finance and training. Avon and Somerset had a contract with IBM, called South West One, which suffered problems in its first three years.
Some services are to be taken back in-house. Cheshire has a more traditional contract with Capgemini to provide finance, facilities and fleet management. When Lincolnshire first put the contract out to tender in March 2011, 12 companies responded with submissions. There will be no shortage of bidders.