Surrey and West Midlands Police consider outsourcing Surrey and West Midlands Police

We’ve been thinking for a while just what to say about the Lincoln Police outsourcing of a range of activities to G4S. The activities involved include not just the sort of areas where G4S have experience, such as custody services, but also back office areas such as Finance and Procurement. I’m not clear whether that’s a definite decision to outsource those functions, or whether they’ve just run the procurement process in a manner that will enable them to give G4S that work if they want to.

Anyway, a new contract opportunity has just been advertised that makes Lincolnshire look like small beer indeed. Surrey and the East Midlands Police have launched a £1.5 billion procurement for a private sector “Partner” – as the Guardian reports:

The 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.

There’s been a lot of media and public reaction– what is interesting is that even in the right-wing press, reader comment has been overwhelmingly negative. (Just look at the “best rated” comments on the Mail website). And to declare a personal interest - I live in Surrey. From what I can glean from the Police Authority minutes, the decision to proceed with the process was far from unanimous, not surprising given the potential implications of this.

I also wonder which way Amanda Mills, a fairly new Police Authority member, voted? She worked for Cap Gemini for over ten years, so must have some informed views on outsourcing (I think she has recently left Cap looking at her LinkedIn page, but I’m sure the Chair would have checked for any conflicts of interest amongst his members before the discussion...)

So, what do you  think about this? Innovative and ground breaking? Or desperate and ill-judged?

We’ll have more on this – a lot more on this – and we’ll give you our initial views on Wednesday.

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Voices (11)

  1. Stephen Heard:

    They are already doing this in East Anglia as seen at

    Senior management team are all ex police officers so thats OK then as I’m sure they expressed an interest when the local constabulary did the lawful procurement!

  2. Dan:

    Is there any indication of what they hope to acheive? Cost savings? Faster processes?

    At the moment, it looks like a generic ‘outsourcing makes things better’, which is just dumb. Anyone managed to see the business case?

    1. bitter and twisted:

      It fell downstairs.

  3. David Orr:

    My local Police Authority meeting accepts public questions and
    holds the meeting in part in public. Meetings & papers are
    published. They are a public body under the FOI Act and have to
    answer FOI questions.

    In contrast, SW1 holds meetings entirely privately; does not have
    to answer FOI questions; does not publish papers or minutes of
    meetings (redacted only for genuinely commercial confidential

    Elected Councillors for Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane
    Borough Council are on the Board of SW1, but cannot report on their
    activity to electors & taxpayers.

    Why haven’t the Home Office and ACPO carried out any research on serious democratic issues surrounding similar outsourcing proposals – such as the outsourcing contract for the controversial joint venture SW1 between IBM and the Avon & Somerset Police?

    The governance, public accountability & transparent information issues are at the heart of maintaining public confidence in Policing, so should in my view be properly addressed, before issuing massive and non-specific tenders. They underpin “Localism” and “Big Society” policies.

    How can Police standards and best practice be maintained or improved, without lessons being learnt and addressed in the effective letting and management of future complex contracts.

    Who can accurately predict the shape of Policing in 10 years time and the coming technologies? How do you create a contract that can flex to accommodate changes without large & uncontrolled charges for change (a flaw in long-term PFI contracts)?

    Given the acknowledged “failing” Somerset experiences with IBM for SW1, I am very sceptical whenever the T-word is used: “Transform” “Transformation”.

    Better service at lower cost, whilst a private contractor makes 20% gross margin and covers risks and capital costs, is a circle that I do not believe can be realistically squared.

    It will of course end in tears like IBM/SW1 here in Somerset with a £50m deficit from something supposed to save money:

    Somerset council takes back services from Southwest One …

    Police privatisation must be stopped, says Lord Prescott…..They had been taken over by Southwest One in 2007 under a joint venture between IBM, Somerset council, the Avon and Somerset police and Taunton Deane …

  4. Final Furlong:

    The more I think about, the more I think it’s a great idea.

    Imagine this.

    In the future, a distressed caller might dial 999 to receive this answer….

    “You have dialled the interactive Police emergency line of the new Surrey Crime Allocation Management service.

    We want you to help us improve our service from time to time and so we may record your call for training purposes. At the end of this call, you will also have the option to press the star sign on your keypad and be transferred to our customer feedback line, where you may be selected to be entered into a competition to win a ticket to see Crimewatch being filmed, live!

    Please select from one of the following options:
    press 1 if you are being mugged
    press 2 if you are being burgled
    press 3 if your car is being stolen
    press 4 if you suspect someone has been accessing your voicemails
    press 5 if your mobile phone is being stolen
    press 6 if you are being chased by a stranger with a deadly weapon, or
    press 7 for any other incident.
    Thank you. You have pressed ‘6, I am being chased by a stranger with a deadly weapon’.
    We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls. You are number 6 in the queue and we will answer your call as soon as possible.
    If you do not wish to wait for one of our assistants, you can also go to the Surrey Crime Allocation Management website,, and where you can enter your incident online.
    We are sorry that you are still in a queue. Please press ‘0’ if you wish to leave a message and we will call you back within 4 hours, or press 1 to stay on the line….”

  5. Rob:

    The list above doesn’t include the core service that a copper delivers – what they alone can do in enforcing the law – which is arresting folk. Much on this list of potential services can be done and delivered by others.

    Are we also going to declare that the private sector can’t undertake life saving operations? Of course not.

    If outsourcing this stuff frees up front-line coppers to do their jobs (to enable them to do what they and they alone can do) then I’m all for it.

  6. Plan Bee:

    Hmmm a privatised police force. Just happened to see a 1980’s sketch from the ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ on Dave last night, summed up exactly why this is not a good idea

  7. bitter and twisted:


    Probably a stalking horse though.

  8. Final Furlong:

    The Police and large outsourcing companies? Or, to put it another way, ‘Cops and Robbers’…?

    I think the idea of the Police sector collaborating with the private sector in every way other than ‘making an arrest’ (only an official Policeman/woman can do this…) isn’t a bad thing. If if frees up real more coppers to patrol the streets, stop crime and arrest criminals, it’s got my vote.

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