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Private Plan Scrapped - £500,000 Wasted

Police and crime commissioner ditches force plan to have a private partner - but says technology should drive services forward

The police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands has scrapped the force’s plans for a private business partner – saying new technology solutions will instead be sought to improve the working practices of staff and officers.

PCC Bob Jones announced the decision on November 22 and said a new technology “Task Force”, led by Chief Constable Chris Sims (pictured), would look into ways of improving technology. It will report back to Mr Jones in January with options.

The eventual solution could still potentially be provided by the private sector as the decision document said: “The Task Force will be able to consider all options for delivery.”

Mr Jones, the former chairman of West Midlands Police Authority, was expected to make the decision after a large number of Labour PCC candidates said they would oppose Police Service outsourcing.

PoliceOracle.com has also learnt from decision papers that West Midlands spent a total of £500,000 on the procurement search for a private partner. However, this is substantially less than the £5 million it was feared would be spent in March, when CC Sims appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee. Cancelling the plan will also have no further financial implications, the decision paper said.
The force’s contract with procurement consultants iMpower will also be terminated as a result of the decision.

Mr Jones said: "The Task Force will make use of the learning and experience of the Business Partnering Programme team to date.

“This is to ensure that we make best use of the skills and experience gained through the current programme.

“The Task Force will undertake its work knowing that I wish to see core policing services remain within the Police Service. Staff and officers exercising police powers and the staff who support them in fulfilling those powers must remain under the direction and control of, and accountable, to the chief constable.

“A consequence of my decision is that the contract with the organisations which have been providing consultancy services to the Programme will also be terminated.

“Their performance has been entirely in line with the process under which they were engaged.”

CC Sims had previously suggested to PoliceOracle.com that any new technology would have to give officers “better mobility” on the ground and “better access to data”.

The original outsourcing plan was already in crisis after Surrey Police decided to pull out of partnering with West Midlands Police earlier this year. Both forces had been conducting the procurement process together to find a private partner – in what could have amounted to a £1.5 billion contract.

They had placed a notice in the Official Journal of European Union (OJEU) asking for tender suggestions in relation to a wide-range of policing services – but there was always criticism that the plan was not specific enough about the kind of services that could potentially be outsourced.

The likelyhood was that the plan would have had vast consequences for police staff. Secretary for Unison West Midlands Police Branch, Jill Harrison, said she was “very pleased” it had been brought to a halt.
But she said the union would follow the technology aspect closely.
She said: “We are under no illusions.

“We do need new technology and it could assist our staff and officers to do their jobs better - so long as a private company doesn’t attempt to become involved in carrying out our members’ jobs.”

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