Policing and Profit

07:22 Friday 29th June 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Cambridgeshire Police are to look at outsourcing some back office services. The county’s Police Authority approved a move at a meeting last night, but said officers need to look at other ways too to make savings. Along with forces in Besfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, they’ve all got to make savings of about £73 million by 2016. It’s thought bringing in private companies to run services like finance, HR and IT might help them do that. Our reporter Natasha Malcolm-Brown has been speaking to Chief Constable Simon Parr. She started by asking how realistic it was to think cuts wouldn’t now affect front line services.
SIMON PARR: Well it will certainly change it. It’s changed already. We’ve reconfigured ourselves. We’ve managed to keep the same number of police constables and PCSOs, but we’ve lost other ranks, more senior ranks. If I can find a way to take a bigger amount of money out by working with an external partner, that allows me to protect my front line. But that of course gets harder, becomes more and more of a challenge to find money without touching the front line.
NATASHA MALCOLM-BROWN: What would you say to the critics who are worried that this is a privatisation of the police?
SIMON PARR: It’s a privatisation of some services. It’s not privatisation of policing. It’s not privatising the policing people see on their front doorsteps. It’s not privatising the policing see in their communities.
NATASHA MALCOLM-BROWN: The changes that are happening within Cambridgeshire Police, how is that going to affect the public?
SIMON PARR: Shouldn’t notice anything. They really shouldn’t notice anything. We already work with private companies. And the whole point about this is where do I spend my money. Do I choose to spend my money internally, on people I employ directly, which is the public service model, in the past? Or Do I choose to spend my money on delivering policing and keeping cops and PCSOs out on the beat? It’s not an easy choice, and I absolutely understand the emotional impact as well as the worry about job security of the people involved in those areas of the business. There will still have to be job cuts. That money’s got to go somewhere.
NATASHA MALCOLM-BROWN: And how many job cuts are we looking at?
SIMON PARR: We don’t know. And we won’t know until and unless we look at this contract.
NATASHA MALCOLM-BROWN: You say it makes perfect sense to get a service from a private company if it’s cheaper and more cost efficient for the police. But why can’t those services be done for the same price in-house? Is it just not possible for the public service to be that efficient?
SIMON PARR: We haven’t got a great history. But actually it’s about economies of scale. If we go into a bigger organisation and work with G4S, it becomes cheaper. My recommendation this afternoon is for the Police Authority to allow us to do the work so we can at least find out the answer.
NATASHA MALCOLM-BROWN: As you know, Cambs Police Staff Branch of Unison say that contracting out of organisational support could lead to the contracting out of other services, such as forensics, detention, handling of 999 calls. Can you give me a guarantee today that during your tenure as Chief Constable, that those services will not be outsourced?
SIMON PARR: No I’m not going to give any guarantees about anything. There are already places in the country where some of those services are outsourced, and they work perfectly fine for those communities. I don’t know where the future’s going to go, in three to five years.