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Privatisation Battle: G4S Faces Public Challenger

A precedent could be set in policing if a self-sustaining force approach is chosen as a way of making savings – instead of outsourcing

A plan hatched by three forces to consider outsourcing with G4S could collapse after a rival “in-sourcing” proposal was endorsed as a “viable alternative”.

Trade union Unison praised Bedfordshire Police Authority’s endorsement of its “Option 10” proposal – which advocates a different way of improving working practices within forces to make savings – rather than seeking a private partner.

Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire police forces have been looking into the possibility of taking on G4S as a private partner since June to make £20 million savings a year. It would ultimately take on the forces’ organisational support – affecting more than 1,000 staff.

¬They are doing the right thing by looking at it and not simply accepting the apparent wisdom to go with a private contract¬

But Option 10 was originally outlined in an Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) report commissioned by Unison - and presented to the three police authorities in the summer as an alternative to the G4S route.

At a press conference on October 24, it was revealed that Bedfordshire Police’s business case on Option 10 was progressing well, and would be ready for the consideration of an elected police and crime commissioner (PCC) following the elections in November.

It means Option 10 will now go head-to-head with the G4S partnering proposal in Bedfordshire– and the elected PCC will have to choose between them.

Police lead for Unison Ben Priestley said: “It is obviously a positive development and there has been some serious work around it (from Unison staff).

“They (the police authority) are doing the right thing by looking at it and not simply accepting the apparent wisdom to go with a private contract.”

In essence, Option 10 would work by harbouring policing expertise in-house with a new “transformational” approach to making savings. It uses the LEAN methodology of improving working practices - a pilot of which has already begun in Bedfordshire Police as part of the business case. Changes would be wide ranging and sudden in order to save money quickly - with even fairly new working practices facing a complete revamp, PoliceOracle.com understands.

Unison is still keen on the idea – adding that staff cuts may also be necessary to save money. But it is happier for these to happen under the management of a police force which can directly benefit from the savings.

However, since Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Police Authorities did not endorse Option 10 – and only the G4S option – the privatisation route could potentially be split between the forces and lead to further ramifications.

This is because the three forces are currently collaborating on business areas including major crime, IT, procurement, and the possibility of roads policing in the near future.
How each would proceed should separate routes be taken therefore threatens to become complicated.

Option 10 has been endorsed by local members of the Police Federation and Superintendents’ Association.

Treasurer of Unison Hertfordshire Police Branch, Mark Watson, added: “We said we don’t have to just go down one option and there are other ways.

“Beds (Police Authority) listened and said they would like to have a balanced view.”

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