Ian Readhead, deputy chief constable of Hampshire, heads the ACPO procurement committee that decides what vehicles and equipment should be available to the police. He claimed outsourcing lacks contact with police officers on the front line and compromises police fleets with decisions based on minimum contract obligations.
His comments follow groundbreaking and controversial decisions by the Metropolitan and Nottinghamshire police forces to outsource parts of their fleet operations to Venson.
Addressing fleet managers at the annual National Association of Police Fleet Managers' (NAPFM) conference in Swindon, Readhead commented: 'An outsourced service provider isn't interested in things like 'how do we reassure the public? It's interested in how it's going to buy vehicles for you. And it does that to the minimum it has to in order to sustain the contract.
'It seems to me that the outsource provider has to only satisfy a minimum requirement of the contract, and in order for you to ensure that you get that, you're going to have to have an in-house team that holds it to account.'
Readhead called outsourcing 'risky', and urged police fleet managers to prove they can compare with the best in the private sector. He also questioned the longevity of the seven year Metropolitan Police maintenance contract, and 25 year Nottinghamshire fleet management and procurement contracts awarded to Venson, asking if fleet managers today would be happy to work under contracts and conditions laid down over a decade ago.
Mike Miller, in charge of running Kent Constabulary's fleet and chairman of the procurement group for the National Association of Police Fleet Managers, was equally vehement that fleet control should stay within police forces.
He said: 'It's rather bizarre when NAPFM agrees deals that save some £20 million in terms of procurement packages, to outsource it to a private company.'
Readhead added: 'It seems to me that vehicles revolve around a unique relationship between officers and fleet managers. I'm not sure just how that can be sustained in an outsourced environment. That unique relationship which exists between your staff and front line 'coppers' on a day-to-day basis does so much to enhance the integrity of the service provision.'
Venson's Private Finance Initiative with Nottinghamshire Police sees the firm handle procurement, delivery, maintenance and fleet management.
Notts chief constable Steve Green claimed the arrangement, designated pathfinder status by the Home Office, would redirect the force's resources towards fighting crime and improve efficiency by increasing the availability of vehicles for deployment to frontline duties.
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