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Privatisation: Guidance Over Police Roles ‘Needed’

Shadow Policing Minister tells debate the government must take leadership over police outsourcing – and provide clarity

A clear framework outlining what roles the private sector can fulfil in policing must be drawn up by government if the Police Service is to ever properly engage with outsourcing, the Shadow Policing Minister has said.

David Hanson MP said the time had come for the government to show leadership over the issue instead of telling forces to “do what you want” when it came to considering whether a service could be fulfilled by a private employer.

Labour campaigned on an anti-privatisation ticket during the PCC elections in November and recently West Midlands PCC Bob Jones threw out a private-partner search being conducted by the force.

Mr Hanson told the PCC Summit in Birmingham that a lack of clarity over the issue had kept the Police Service wary of using the private sector – and justifiably staff members in fear of losing their jobs.

He said: “Public facing policing needs to be done by the public sector.
“We need to get some kind of framework around what is the private sector role in policing.

“At the moment we don’t have clarity around what they should be and what they should not be doing.

“We don’t have clarity about the public accountability of that money.”
Mr Hanson said PCCs would now have a major say on whether private firms became successful in policing – and caution was needed.

He said: “If the commissioner today decides a contract (with a private firm) for 15 years, no commissioner could change that contract and that takes out a whole lot of scope and budget control.

“Government should start to be very clear about what the ground rules are.
“PCCs have to be engaged with their electorate over this.”

Labour colleague Steve McCabe MP, who sits on the Home Affairs Committee, said there was very little evidence of the success of private companies to date in policing.

The Birmingham Selly Oak member added: “There are some savings (to be made) but our own chief constable (Chris Sims) in the West Midlands says it is a fraction of what actually influences police budgets.”

The Home Affairs Editor for the Guardian, Alan Travis, told the debate that transparency was key – as well as community engagement.

He said: “It should be subject to local debate through consultation with local people and the media.

“It may well be that it is better for G4S to run a police station but these things need to be debated now and arrived at in a transparent way.”

Unison Police Lead Ben Priestley said if profit was made from policing it should be reinvested rather than being “shipped off” to somewhere like the Cayman Islands by private firms.

He added: “Independent PCCs too appear to have understood the message that there is no evidence that the private sector is able to provide policing that is more effective and more efficient than what the current Police Service provides.”

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