Venson takes over police vehicle fleet in landmark PFI deal

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The Independent Online

Nottinghamshire police have sold police vehicles to a private company, in the first private finance initiative (PFI) deal of its kind. Under the contract Venson, a group that provides bespoke services for vehicle fleets, will take on the 450 cars, vans, motorcycles and specialist vehicles.

Although private sector provision of public services has proved unpopular with the public and trade unions, the Government has indicated that it will press ahead with widening its PFI scope. Grant Scriven, chairman and chief exec- utive of Venson, said the outsourcing of vehicles by various state departments and agencies, such as ambulances, would provide a "huge market" for business.

The Nottinghamshire police will have to buy monthly slots to use the cars, paying about £4m a year or £100m over the 25 years of the deal. Venson, a private company partly owned by the Irish entrepreneur Dermot Desmond, will maintain the fleet and buy new vehicles when necessary.

Venson already has a maintenance contract for London's Metropolitan Police, but the new deal is the first where a private company has actually bought police cars. The deal has been designated a "pathfinder" project by the Home Office, which will consider rolling the scheme out across the country. The nation's 60 police forces have about 25,000 vehicles, representing a significant market for similar deals.

Mr Scriven said: "This is fully outsourcing the vehicles. We have complete responsibility for getting the police from A to B. It is nothing like a mere leasing deal. If they don't use the vehicles, they don't pay for them." It took three years to negotiate the contract, which will begin in November. The deal was opposed by some members of the Nottinghamshire Police Authority, including its chairman John Clarke. But it was approved in an 11-4 vote.

"This is going to go through explosive growth. The principle of the Nottinghamshire contract can be applied to any government vehicle," Mr Scriven said.