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Private firms to take on routine police duties

Police duties in areas including public events, licensing, and traffic control, are likely to be scaled down or replaced by the private sector and local authorities, an interim Home Office report indicated yesterday.

In one of the biggest shake- ups of the police service this century, the Home Office has identified existing police functions likely to be farmed out to save money. These include work on noise pollution, missing children, stray dogs, and lost property. However, police chiefs and rank-and-file officers are privately relieved the Home Office has not targeted more sensitive and wide ranging functions.

The Home Office denied yesterday that it had bowed to pressure from the police service, which at all levels has shown unprecedented opposition to the review since it was set up in January. The Government has also been struggling to improve its tarnished image as the party of law and order.

Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, said the changes would not produce any financial savings or increase the number of people on the beat. 'The money will simply be transferred from the police service to local authorities and private companies,' he said.

The final report of the Home Office's Review of Police Core and Ancillary Tasks is due to be published in January. Although the interim review does not make any recommendations, it highlights specific functions which could benefit from reform. Among the possible areas for reform that were identified are: Increasing the training and use of stewards at public events, such as football matches and pop concerts, to take over responsibility for crowd control and safety.

Reducing police involvement in enforcing the law against noise pollution by strengthening the role of environmental health officers.

Different ways of administering licensing for the use of explosives, gaming, betting and liquor licensing to cut on police involvement.

Contracting out of the handling of broken down and abandoned vehicles.

Greater use of civilians in traffic accident investigation, roadworks and road obstructions.

Transfer certain functions of dealing with lost property.

Removal of responsibility for any traffic wardens or school crossing patrols.

Transfer of responsibilities for stray dogs from the police to local authorities.

Removal of some police responsibility for finding children that run away from local authority homes.

The review team will also be examining possible reforms of the criminal justice system later this year and will concentrate on police work in summoning defendants and witnesses, case update to victims and witnesses, support for victims and witnesses, transcription of interviews, and giving court results to complainants.