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Private firms to run police departments

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Private firms will be invited to make financial bids to take over the running of departments within West Midlands Police, under new plans revealed by the force.

Private firms will be invited to make financial bids to take over the running of departments within West Midlands Police, under new plans revealed by the force.

The West Midlands Police Authority has agreed to enter the first stage of a programme of work that could see private sector companies take over some back office functions in the future.

The move is part of plans to radically change and overhaul departments in the wake of making £126 million in savings over the next four years.

But Chief Constable Chris Sims has denied that the process was about outsourcing work in a way that other forces, such as Cleveland Police, had done. The North East force is to outsource its 999 call room in a bid to save £50m over 10 years.

"One of the challenges for us and the authority is about how we carry on improving policing during a time when there's virtually flat budgeting once the cuts have been made," said Mr Sims.

"Part of our thinking is you do that being radical and being prepared to transform.

"By inviting the private sector in, we would capitalise on their expertise and move more quickly."

The force will cut 173 police officer and 217 staff positions, some through compulsory redundancy, in a drive to save a total of £25m over the next year.

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Forensics, firearms and child abuse units will have their budgets reduced, while eight police dogs, their handlers and 65 traffic officers are also expected to be included in cuts.

But Mr Sims said inviting private firms in was not about saving money, but about ensuring the force moves forward in the coming years.

"If we are to move forward and improve policing and the services we provide, especially during a period of nil growth, we must seek large scale and fundamental transformational change, especially into how we carry out so-called middle and back office functions," said Mr Sims. "This will require us making innovative and radical alterations to the way in which we carry out business and include changes to our technological infrastructure, our operational processes and our culture.

"Entering into a partnership with a skilled and experienced external organisation may benefit in a number of ways including allowing us to reduce costs and gain advantages from the scale, technology and capital they could bring."

Mr Sims said if a full procurement process goes ahead, it is likely to take between 12 and 18 months, when a decision will be made about whether to enter into any formal agreement with an external partner.

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