Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Birmingham Lib Dems back West Midlands Police privatisation

At the meeting on the 22 January 2012 where the police authority agreed to push ahead with the worrying proposals to privatise parts of the police service - in partnership with Surrey. The Labour Group on the authority rightly has big concerns about what this means for policing in the West Midlands and nationally, as this is clearly a government-backed pilot. Currently, a broad range of services are up for consideration, although the Chief Constable has claimed that what is likely to be outsourced will be much less - but no business case has been presented to the authority prior to the request for expressions of interests. That lack of clarity is a considerable risk for policing and also, in fairness, to the businesses that might wish to bid for involvement, but won't have a clear idea how far their remit might stretch. Essentially, this looks to be tilted in favour of one of the massive players like G4S, who are now running Winson Green Prison - they took it over and promptly lost the keys and then seem to have handed it over to the local gangs.

Put simply, there is still no evidence that these proposals will increase efficiency or the quality of service or assurances about the impact on other partnerships with local forces. It is certainly true that with costs contractually fixed for whatever is privatised, then any further funding cuts could only impact on the front line officers on our streets - there would be no option. It is also odd that such a plan would be launched only months ahead of the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The Labour group, plus the independent chair of audit, did not agree that the proposal was fit to progress, but were outvoted by the rest of the authority, including Cllr Ernie Hendricks, (Lib Dem, Moseley & Kings Heath). Another vote to delay the whole matter until after the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner also fell - again Cllr Hendricks voted with the majority.

The best hope is that because of the timing of the process, the final decision will be taken by the incoming Police and Crime Commissioner, making that election in November one about the whole future of policing in the West Midlands.

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