West Midlands police latest to axe outsourcing plans

LONDON Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:00am EST

LONDON Nov 22 (Reuters) - Britain's West Midlands police force has decided against letting private firms run some of its core services, landing the latest blow to an outsourcing sector expecting a wave of justice work.

The force's new police commissioner Bob Jones said plans to look for a private partner to run services from street patrols, to guarding crime scenes and collecting CCTV footage would be scrapped. A task force would instead focus on IT improvements.

"The Task Force will undertake its work knowing that I wish to see core policing services remain within the police service," Jones said on Thursday, adding that proposals to improve its IT functions could involve private sector partners.

Like many UK forces, West Midlands police - in central England - face budget cuts and had considered outsourcing work to save cash and bridge a 126 million pound funding gap.

Surrey police, in the southeast of England, had originally partnered with the West Midlands force on the venture, which media reports had said could be worth up to 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion). Surrey, however, pulled out in July, citing fierce opposition to the proposals.

The West Midland decision to scrap it altogether follows a government move this month to ease plans to privatise a number of public prisons, after bids failed to impress.

Out of eight prisons, deals for only four remain available to a shortlist of private firms. Three jails were kept under public sector management and another, run by security group G4S , is to be handed back to public operators in July.

Some analysts believe the decision has now brought the expected outsourcing of more prisons into question.

G4S, whose reputation was tarnished this summer by its failure to provide enough guards for the London Olympics, is waiting to find out whether three other UK police forces - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire - will go ahead with plans to jointly outsource services to the firm.

G4S, which has a 200 million pound contract with Lincolnshire police to run services like its firearms and custody suites, expects an update on the deal by the year end.

The six bidders shortlisted for a possible contract with West Midlands police were BT and Vanguard Consulting; Capita ; G4S; KBR Inc and IBM ; Logica UK, Amey and Northgate Information Solutions; and Serco , HP Enterprise Services and Accenture.