Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two of the largest police forces in the country. West Midlands and Surrey have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.
The contract is the largest on police privatisation so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved. This scale dwarfs the recent £200m contract between Lincolnshire police and G4S, under which half the force's civilian staff are to join the private security company, which will also build and run a police station for the first time.
The home secretary, Theresa May, who has imposed a 20% cut in Whitehall grants on forces, has said frontline policing can be protected by using the private sector to transform services provided to the public, but this is the first clear indication of what that will mean in practice. May said on Thursday that she hoped the "business partnership" programme would be in place next spring.
A 26-page "commercial in confidence" contract note seen by the Guardian has been sent to potential bidders to run all services that "can be legally delegated to the private sector". They do not include those that involve the power of arrest and the other duties of a sworn constable. Companies who have applied through the Bluelight emergency services e-tendering website have been invited to a "bidders' conference" on 14 March, with an anticipated contract start date of next February.
The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes: investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.
Ben Priestley, Unison's national office for police and justice, which covers many police civilian staff, said:
"Bringing the private sector into policing is a dangerous experiment with local safety and taxpayers' money, privatisation means that the police will be less accountable to the public. And people will no longer be able to go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission if they have a problem. When a critical incident happens, a force's ability to respond will be severely compromised. The only winners are private companies and shareholders who make profits at the expense of local services."
The West Midlands police are already planning to cut 2,764 police jobs over the next three years and this privatisation programme is not designed to meet the immediate budget gaps. The savings are expected to show after 2014.
I don't what else to say, it's pretty evident how fucking terrible this is. The current conservative government seems bent on destroying everything in the country and pushing out policies that would make Thatcher wince.
The paranoid conspiracy theorist in me feels like this is a reaction to the corruption in the police at the hands of News International and Murdoch, which is now being investigated and prosecuted. What better way for him to get around any new laws and rules which stop police being paid for information and invited to swank parties, by removing them from the public sector. I'm sure this has a lot to do with the trouble with police pensions that's been going on at the moment as well.
I'm also willing to be this has been put out there to stir up trouble and distract from the imminent health bill which will lead to the eventual privatisation of the NHS. I'm sure it'll come down to them scrapping this one, but only if we take the other. The Labour government started something like this a while back, selling off administration tasks for regional police and fire service training, however, this seems a touch different...
Edited by SeanCE - 3/3/12 at 4:43am