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HM Chief Inspector: Outsourcing 'A Problem Issue'

Sir Denis O’Connor says forces' ability to contract out services could improve – and outlines HMIC plans to help

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has said the Police Service's ability to outsource services is a “problem area” – but hopes HMIC’s work with the National Audit Office will help.

Responding to questions from the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Denis admitted that contracting skills in the public sector were sometimes not up to scratch.

He was responding to questions about the decision of three forces to continue with a business plan to join Lincolnshire Police in outsourcing support functions to G4S.

Sir Denis, who is due to retire and hand over to successor Tom Winsor at the end of the month, agreed with MP Julian Huppert, who said concerns around outsourcing had a lot do with “the ability of the public sector to get procurement right”.

He told the committee: “Contracting skills within the public sector and the police is a problem issue. That gap will have to be covered off or we will not get good procurements.”

He added HMIC was working with the National Audit Office to prepare guidance for forces on outsourcing to ensure value for money and help maintain quality of the service.

Sir Denis added: “The work we are doing at the National Audit Office will help police authorities and police and crime commissioners to take a dispassionate view of what is on offer.

“In the meantime we should have clarity about private and public realms' responsibility.”

Dr Huppert asked Sir Denis about Hertfordshire Constabulary, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police, which are looking at joining Lincolnshire's contract with G4S as well as working on a process to find another private partner.

The Liberal Democrat MP said he had concerns about the public sector's ability to get outsourcing right as well as personal fears over the ability of G4S to deliver.

Sir Denis said: “I'd like to think that with what those three forces are doing, there is enough competition in the frame for G4S to be compared with what others are doing.”

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