New policing minister Damian Green calls for private sector to take a greater role in police work despite G4S shambles

 

The new policing minister today called for the private sector to take a greater role in police work - despite fresh evidence emerging of the extent of the failure by G4S to fulfil its contract to guard the London Olympics.

Damian Green, who was appointed in last week’s Government’s reshuffle, insisted the move would free up police officers to concentrate on the frontline and save money that could be used directly to protecting the public.

He spoke out as forces consider transferring backroom functions to private companies in response to the Government’s spending squeeze, although the G4S debacle has led some to put the move on hold.

Mr Green sought to give fresh impetus to the privatisation drive in a speech to candidates in elections in November to become police and crime commissioners (PCCs).

“I hope you will all consider the value of private sector partnering to achieve both cost savings and better services for the public,” he told them.

“The police force is, and will remain, a public service accountable to the people. Business decisions with business planning will be taken by locally-elected PCCs.”

Mr Green added: “Every pound saved means a pound saved to be used on the front-line, putting officers on the streets.  I want more officers to be out there getting on with the job of fighting crime - we all know they can’t do it if they are bogged down with red tape.”

G4S is pitching for a series of contracts to take over civilian posts in police forces, including a bid to part-run a police station in Lincolnshire. Several forces, however, have put a hold on such moves and the Cabinet Office has warned that it is going to review the security giant’s performance “very carefully”.

G4S told Olympics organisers that they would not be able to supply enough staff just two weeks before the games started, forcing ministers to draft in thousands of troops to plug the gaps.

The home affairs select committee, which is investigating the episode, heard that at worse G4S supplied 35 per cent fewer officers than it originally promised - and nearly two-thirds of venues experienced a shortfall of more than 15 per cent .

Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman, said: “It is difficult to look beyond their inability to deliver on the contracted number of security personnel that we were consistently assured by them that they would be able to deliver.”

Nick Buckles, the chief executive of G4S, told the committee: “I’m not going to sit here and say we did a great job. But we delivered a significant portion of that contract and our people did an excellent job and played a major part in delivering these Games. We are planning to take a £50 million loss on this contract.”

He said police outsourcing was an important growth area for G4S, which currently contributes at least £20m a year to its revenues. He added that the involvement of private contractors in police services would do “nothing to disrupt the bobby on the beat” and described outsourcing as “an absolutely positive move forward for police forces”.

Mr Green described November’s elections of the first PCCs as “the most significant democratic reform of policing in our lifetime” and insisted the new police chiefs would help to involve the public in the policing of their neighbourhoods.

The elections have been mired in controversy over the standard of candidates for the posts and the withdrawal of some after it emerged some had stood down because they had minor convictions as youngsters. The Home Office and the Electoral Commission are to run publicity campaigns about the elections amid fears that the turn-out could fall below 20 per cent

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