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Comment: How Privatisation Proposals Work

Police forces can make substantial savings on private partnership deals by piggybacking proposals drawn up by other forces

Outsourcing could potentially change the way police and the private sector interact together – and the so-called “piggybacking” of proposals put forward by early adopter forces looks as if it could become a favourite way forward.

At the outset of its bid to outsource some of its services to the private sector, Lincolnshire Police placed a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) – a move required by law. The contract, which was eventually awarded to security firm G4S – was worth some £200 million.

However, in this case it was the remit of the notice – which was essentially a tender advertisement – that was to prove crucial for the wider Police Service.

It is accepted as best practice in industry to list as many policing services as possible that have outsourcing potential, even if the force has no intention of handing them to private companies. In this way other forces, the names of which are added to the notice in support, have the option of outsourcing these services at a later date.

Having placed their names to the notice, the non-participating forces are effectively piggybacking the proposals, saving themselves money going forward. While Lincolnshire spent significant sums as it progressed through the procurement process, which included a bidders’ day and a discussion with interested parties, the piggybacking forces have the option of an accelerated process – without the need to launch a costly procurement operation of their own.

Another key advantage is that they do not ultimately have to sign up to all the services in the framework, and can pick and choose what they would like to outsource. In theory, they could sign up to numerous frameworks and use them as they see fit.

While a mechanism is available for principal forces that draw up original frameworks to retrieve some of the procurement costs from piggybacking forces, this can be a lengthy process and does not involve large cash sums.
There are generally two types of tender frameworks – multi-vendor frameworks could involve multiple companies with forces choosing to buy from any one of them individually. Ultimately these could also involve mini-competitions between these companies to attain the signature of a particular force.

A single framework, such as Lincolnshire’s, on the other hand means a piggybacking force could only use a single named company in future arrangements.

Ten forces chose to piggyback the Lincolnshire proposal while all forces bar Derbyshire have backed a new West Midlands and Surrey plan still in its early stages.

In addition, agreements can be put in place where a “price guarantee” scheme operates between private contractors and forces – in a similar way to a supermarket price war. In the example of Lincolnshire, G4S would have to return to the force and adjust its prices if it offered cheaper deals elsewhere.

In conclusion, the outsourcing of services to private companies could become more common than it is today as more generic notices are placed by forces on the internet.

Even if they are unsure about private partnerships at the moment, piggybacking is a good way for forces not to make any firm commitment and watch what others are doing while keeping their options open for the future.

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