Private contractors to build and run police station
A night in the cells used to be spent courtesy of the boys in blue.
But from April private contractors will be building police stations and employing the staff to run them as well.
With police forces seeking savings in the face of the government’s austerity-led budget cuts, G4S, the world’s largest security company, has won the first contract in Britain to staff and build a police station. The deal, expected to be signed within days, represents the most radical outsourcing of law enforcement to the private sector yet.
The deal with Lincolnshire Police Authority will see G4S take over jobs formerly handled by police officers. In custody operations, for instance, uniformed sergeants with powers to arrest will always be on hand but G4S employees will do almost everything else, from accompanying offenders to their cells to carrying out drug testing.
Police representatives have already voiced misgivings. Simon Reed, vice-chair of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, was cautious about the enterprise ? pointing out that police force staff have an enshrined sense of public duty, whereas private employees may not.
?Our concern is the resilience of the companies doing this,? he said. ?When we have national emergencies or unforeseen events, will they be able to bring their staff in to work long hours, regardless of what their contracts say??
G4S says, however, that the deal will benefit frontline officers. Kim Challis, group managing director of the company’s government and outsourcing services division, said: ?Not only does it support frontline policing, but it will help officers to make the best use of their time, allowing them to focus more on operational duties.?
The contract is worth 200m over 10 years with an option for a five-year extension. Other local police forces are considering similar partnerships this year.
As part of the contract G4S will build a new police station with a two-storey office complex and 30 cells on a ?hub and spokes? model. This allows for additional cells to be added rapidly in the event of public disorder or a sports event that turns violent.
Just over half the force’s 900 civilian staff will transfer to G4S, while the remainder will be kept on as police employees alongside the 1,100 officers. New staff employed by G4S will undertake the security company’s seven-week training programme, which meets home office guidelines for custody workers.
The contract comes as police forces grapple with government-imposed funding cuts of about 20 per cent over four years. Barry Young, chairman of the Lincolnshire Police Authority, said the spending squeeze had brought the force to crisis point.
?The cuts left us with no choice but to look for drastic changes in the way we do things. We have always had some of the tightest funding conditions in the country and the [new spending settlement] meant it was imperative to close a huge funding gap.?
The force aims to make savings of 16m-20m over the 10 years
Although police forces have already outsourced discrete parts of their operations to specialist companies, this is the most comprehensive deal yet. Last year it emerged that West Midlands police had contracted out some of their counter-terror operations to a team employed by G4S.
Ms Challis said ?it was great to see a G4S concept coming to life?.
?The new police station is an integral element of our strategic partnership with Lincolnshire Police Authority. It’s a tangible way that we can deliver real savings to the authority, while providing police with the best facilities and technology available.