By Daniel Hunter
A new CBI report calls on recently elected Police and Crime Commissioners to work with independent providers to help them meet budgetary demands, improve service efficiency, and free up more warranted officers to be on the frontline.
Police forces in England and Wales will have to adapt to a 20% reduction in funding over the next five years. While recognising that core frontline services should only be carried out by warranted police officers - like patrolling the streets or arresting criminals - the CBI report highlights that many back office services and frontline support functions should be opened up to competition by independent providers.
Previous CBI research has shown that this could save £1.5 billion, while allowing police forces to benefit from greater service innovation and cutting-edge technology to deal with new types of crime.
A force for the future: transforming policing through partnership also calls on Police Commissioners to leverage economies of scale in their procurement by purchasing products, or by sharing services, at a regional or national level. For example, Essex Police collaborated with neighbouring councils as well as other emergency services on software provision and information sharing which to date has saved it £1.74 million.
The report highlights that there are still 6,600 police officers performing back office functions, like HR, finance, procurement, and ICT, which could be carried out by the independent sector.
There are also a broad range of additional operational functions where independent providers could support police forces including: fleet management, forensics, interpreting services and training. The private sector has supported the police in many of these areas for more than two decades.
“Like all public services, the police force is under significant pressure to maintain the quality of its service, while meeting necessary budget cuts, so carrying on as normal is not an option," Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said.
“Faced with this challenge the new Police and Crime Commissioners should work with independent providers to deliver back office and operational support services to free up more officers for the frontline.
“The police force can also benefit from the independent sector’s investment in cutting edge technology to tackle new challenges like cyber-crime and fraud.”
The CBI’s recommendations to support this reform include:
- The Home Office should identify those functions that do not require warranted officers to support them
- All police forces should open all back office services and operational support functions (not needing to be carried out by warranted officers) to independent competition
- The Independent Police Complaints Commission should be expanded to cover all independent providers to ensure accountability
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) should require all forces to set out how they are progressing on service reform.
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