The committee’s findings were published not long after it was announced that the West Midlands and Surrey police authorities had put privatisation plans on hold until July. Reasons given were to get the Olympics out of the way and to carry out some level of public consultation.
However, West Midlands police force’s chief constable Chris Sims said: “Working with the private sector is a real opportunity to bring private sector solutions into policing to really transform the way we work, helping us to deliver improved services at lower cost. By working with a business partner we believe we will be able to improve the services we provide to the public and operate more effectively.”
The overall costs for the procurement process in both forces was estimated at £5m and the Home Office has agreed to contribute up to £2m. West Midlands and Surrey Police would fund the rest on a 2:1 basis, with contributions of £2m and £1m respectively.
When asked whether certain frontline duties traditionally undertaken by the police would be undertaken by private companies, Surrey’s chief constable Lynne Owens told the committee: “The answer is no, they definitely 100 per cent won’t be.”
The committee found that the costly joint procurement exercise being undertaken by Surrey and West Midlands Police lacked clarity. The MPs were not convinced that the forces fully understood or were fully able to articulate the process they were undertaking. With the overall costs of exploring this process set at £5m, the committee called on the Home Office to take responsibility for ensuring the public and stakeholders were aware of the process and to postpone the exercise until after the election of the Police and Crime Commissioners.
Committee chair Keith Vaz said: “The Home Office must ensure it knows what services local forces wish to contract out before agreeing to allow expenditure of £5m on what is little more than a fishing expedition.”