Met plans to use profits from online cuddly toy shop to fund police work

Sales of Bobby bears, mugs and notebooks to provide alternative source of income

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard plans to use profits from an online shop selling cuddly toys, mugs and notebooks to support policing activity .

Companies will be invited to bid to run the web store next year, selling a range of branded merchandise to members of the public and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) staff.

The plans emerged as the Met said it could privatise services worth up to £500 million, including work linked to court cases and healthcare in custody, as the force battles to maintain officer numbers in response to a 20% cut to its budget.

Notice that the scheme is in the pipeline was published on the Government's contract finder website, which gave a spend profile of £225,000 a year over four years, along with £900,000 capital costs.

A Met spokesman said the actual fee paid to the provider would be established in the tender process.

"The annual figure of £225,000 quoted reflects the Met's current annual revenue from merchandise. However, part of the reason for looking at this option would be to try to increase this revenue," a spokesman said.

"The fee for providing the web-based shop would be established in the tender process as part of the selection criteria.

"Profits from the sale of merchandise are returned to MPS budgets to support policing activity."

The competition for the work is due to commence in January, with firms being asked to "create and manage a web-based shop to sell a range of merchandise to both the internal MPS market and the general public".

The description of the work adds that the shop will sell currently-available products including "Bobby bears, mugs and notebooks" alongside "other products to be determined by both the supplier and the MPS".

The Met set out a range of measuresyesterday to cut costs, with businesses and internal police teams set to competenext year for contracts covering a wide range of services such as finance, human resources, procurement, catering and language services, coming into force in 2015.

Existing contracts for IT, facilities management and transport services will also be re-tendered.

London deputy mayor for policing and crime Stephen Greenhalgh said: "Competitive tendering of support services is part of our plans to drive down costs so we can keep police numbers high and ensure frontline officers have the best possible support.

"Competition is an important process to drive up performance and help us cut out waste, so we can be as lean as possible and put more resources into frontline policing.

"Core policing roles are not being outsourced but we are asking the private sector to show the Met where they could come in and provide better police support services at a lower cost."

The Metropolitan Police is already selling 200 buildings, including landmark New Scotland Yard as it faces making cuts of £500 million to its £3.6 billion annual budget.

While there will be an increased number of constables in the wake of the reductions, going from around 24,630 now to 25,909 in 2015, there will be a loss of hundreds of officers in senior ranks.