Three police forces have abandoned plans to outsource fleet management to support services giant G4S because the agreement being proposed did not suit their “unique and complex” needs.
Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire police forces were examining the possibility of “buying into” an existing framework agreement which G4S had signed with Lincolnshire Police.
This was established last year to meet the specific requirements of Lincolnshire Police but it also allowed certain other forces the opportunity to contract with G4S without the additional cost and delay arising from a new procurement process.
Lincolnshire Police is currently paying G4S £200 million over 10 years for a variety of “organisational support” functions including: the management of its fleet of 400 vehicles; HR; ICT; estates and facilities, procurement and resource management.
It is estimated that the contract will bring total savings of £28m.
The Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Strategic Alliance began examining the viability of using this option itself last June, but postponed making a final decision until the new police crime commissioners were appointed in November.
However, all three forces have now said the framework did not meet their “unique and complex requirements” so would not be using it.
While none of the alliance’s members have cited G4S’s much-publicised London Olympics debacle as a factor in their decision, opinion appears to differ about the wisdom of outsourcing parts of their operations.
Cambridgeshire’s police and crime commissioner, Sir Graham Bright, said: “Following a rigorous review we have come to the shared decision not to proceed further. I still firmly think that working closely with other forces is the key to making the savings needed in the future.
“I have always said that I am not against outsourcing completely. I will make any decisions about how services are provided in the future based on what is in the best interests of Cambridgeshire.”
Hertfordshire Constabulary chief constable Andy Bliss added: “I shall be working very closely with David Lloyd, the police and crime commissioner, as we now look at all possible options to ensure that we jointly maximise the efficient use of every pound spent on policing in Hertfordshire.”
Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner, Olly Martins, has previously stated that it was “not the answer” to hand over parts of the force to G4S as it would be bad for public accountability, employees and taxpayers.
He added: “The concerns that I had about this proposal are on record but I am pleased that, following the evaluation and subsequent discussions, the three police and crime commissioners have ended up in agreement with a shared view that this contract does not deliver what we need.
“However, we do still have to save money. Strengthening the ways in which we collaborate with Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire is a crucial element of our ongoing investment.”
Outsourcing consultant John Tizard believes that one of the reasons why the alliance has not opted for the Lincolnshire-G4S framework is because they want “greater short-term flexibility” during the tough economic climate.
Tizard said: “It would appear that they’ve taken the view that there might be other options which could work better.
“For example, they might not want to commit themselves to such an all-encompassing outsourcing package – only a part thereof.
“One of the police forces is not ruling out going back to the market at a later stage in order to work with the private sector.
“But public bodies are increasingly looking for greater flexibility than long-term contracts commit them to – had they gone ahead with this scheme then it would have been a massive chunk of their budget gone for the next decade.”
Police outsourcing first caused controversy last March when it emerged that both Surrey Police and West Midlands Police (WMP) were considering a £1.5 billion contract that would allow private sector staff to carry out patrols, criminal investigations and detention of suspects.
The Surrey force subsequently withdrew from the scheme last summer.
Fleet News has been told that WMP’s new crime commissioner is “ending all outsourcing”.