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Billion-pound tender

A tender with the plain title ‘accommodation and office services’ from a couple of police forces has rightly become big news. The private sector could enter public policing in a new, and maybe multi-billion-pound, way. Professional Security editor Mark Rowe digests the document and suggests why it could be so important to UK public and private policing.

West Midlands and Surrey Police wish to work with the private sector ‘to transform the delivery of future policing services’. For the tender in full visit the EU tender website TED. As procurement, it’s large-scale stuff: while G4S agreed recently a £200m contract with Lincolnshire Police to run services, this West Midlands tender – on behalf of English and Welsh forces – is suggesting ten-year contracts to be worth £300m to £3.5 billion. If only West Midlands and Surrey go ahead, the contracts could be worth £1.5 billion. So if many more forces join in, we could be talking tens of billions of pounds. While transform has been a jargon word in the public sector in the last few years – used by the Security Industry Authority, for instance – the list of services that the tender suggests will be open to private tender does indeed appear to transform UK policing, by bringing private companies into work previously thought of as the police’s. The tender list is sweeping – under ‘bring offenders to justice’ it lists ‘investigate crimes, detain suspects, non-judicial disposal, develop cases’. Other services include ‘respond to incidents’, ‘patrol neighbourhoods’, and (more vaguely) ‘manage customer relationships’. The tender also proposes the private sector to manage facilities including ‘fleet and livestock’ – presumably meaning police horses, rather than the police moving into agriculture!? But besides support tasks, that private firms are already doing, the tender speaks of protecting the public: vulnerable people and places, and disrupting ‘criminal networks’.

In fact the tender is careful to keep its options open and the only police services sure to stay with the police are the specialisms, the sensitive ones (an ’operational risk’ test) and ones that would go too far politically (for reasons of ’public confidence’). The tender makes plain that the motive is to do things cheaper (in tender-speak, ’efficiency, cost savings and performance’).   

So says the tender document, which is looking for between three and five companies to tender, before April 4. If you are interested, register your interest on the police procurement portal at www.bluelight.gov.uk. A ‘Bidders’ Conference’ is proposed for March 13.


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