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Home Affairs Committee - The Role of Private Sector Companies in Policing - Minutes of EvidenceHC 1899-i
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
The Role of Private Sector Companies in Policing
Thursday 22 March 2012
Chief Constable LynnE Owens and Chief Constable Chris Sims
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 44
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Thursday 22 March 2012
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Chief Constable Lynne Owens, Surrey Police, and Chief Constable Chris Sims, West Midland Police, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Mr Sims, Ms Owens, thank you very much for coming to see the Committee today. I think this may well be the first appearance that you are making, Ms Owens, in your new capacity. May I, on behalf of the Committee, congratulate you on your appointment as the Chief Constable of Surrey? Mr Sims, was this all your idea to put this very large contract out to the private sector or was this something that you were asked to do by the Home Office?
Chief Constable Sims: No, it came about through myself, Lynne’s predecessor, through some meetings involving the Home Office as well, and from that was born some ideas of testing the market. We have spent over a year thinking through exactly what we wanted to do before we put it into a procurement process just after Christmas.
Q2 Chair: Because at the end of the day you are going to have spent £5 million on this process with the possibility that no contracts are going to be signed, is that right?
Chief Constable Sims: It is a possibility. The £5 million is divided between obviously the two forces with a contribution from the Home Office.
Q3 Chair: Ms Owens, you of course were not responsible for this, as you made very clear in an email you sent to Murray Rowlands, which I refer to as the, "Hi Murray" email. You are very clear that no decision has been made to award a contract, this was not your idea, you were going to look at it very carefully and basically you are a very cautious individual. Do you think this is an admission that those who have run the police service over the last few years have basically failed to grasp the issue of how to manage their resources effectively?
Chief Constable Owens: No, far from it, Mr Vaz. Just to clarify that email. That was in response to an email that Mr Rowlands sent to all his members that I did not think was highly accurate in content, and I wanted to create the opportunity for us to have more conversation because I had only the previous week given a presentation to the Labour Party MPs in Surrey, so I thought it was important to continue that conversation.
If you look at the history of policing in this country. In every force, and you know I have served in the Met as well as in Surrey, there is strong evidence of significant change. In Surrey alone we have saved over £20 million over the last four years. We have plans over the next five years to save another £14 million. The reality is, with the change in financial situation, we recognise there is 20% cuts and we have been working very proactively to do something about it. But eventually that pot will run dry and what this is about is just seeing whether there is anything that the private sector can do for us that will give us opportunities for the future.
The reason I am saying I am cautious is because where we are at the moment is a feasibility stage. We are not at the stage of offering or laying a contract.
Q4 Chair: But some may say, Mr Sims, that £5 million when obviously resources are scarce is a lot of money to spend on what is a very large fishing expedition. At the end of this whole process you may decide we are not going to go and sign any contracts because at the end of the day it is obviously not your decision.
Chief Constable Sims: I would put it slightly stronger than that. It is more than a fishing expedition. We have done, as I said, a year of research, if you like, into how similar pieces of work operate in other force areas, how private sector has involved itself in other parts of the public sector. So from my perspective I would say it is a stronger presumption than simply now testing the market. We have sort of tested the market-
Q5 Chair: How much do you anticipate you will save? If you are spending £5 million on preparation and a lot of police time, obviously very senior officers, how much do you think you will save?
Chief Constable Sims: This is probably the most important point in the discussion. This is not an exercise in simply saving money. By the time this contract, if you like-
Q6 Chair: So it could be more expensive?
Chief Constable Sims: By the time this contract comes into existence West Midlands Police will have saved the £125 million it needs to save in the CSR. What we are, in effect, doing is inviting the private sector companies that are interested in partnering us to bid against, if you like, some outcomes for policing. This is all about improving the service that we offer. It is not about making short-term savings.
Q7 Chair: I understand. So what you have told this Committee, this is not about savings, this is much more fundamental than saving money, so at the end of the day you may save absolutely nothing?
Chief Constable Sims: At the end of the day we may transform the service that the public of the West Midlands and Surrey get.
Q8 Chair: I understand that. At the end of the day, since this is in part driven by finance, the whole process anyway, you are not necessarily going to save any money?
Chief Constable Sims: It is not primarily aimed at simply making savings.
Q9 Mr Winnick: Are you saying, Chief Constable Sims, that if the proposed reduction from Central Government over the next few years, somewhere in the region of 26%, was not going to happen you would still nevertheless go ahead?
Chief Constable Sims: Yes.
Q10 Mr Winnick: As far as the Police Authority is concerned, there was a vote, was there not, on this issue?
Chief Constable Sims: There was.
Q11 Mr Winnick: That is very unusual?
Chief Constable Sims: No, I think there is always a debate and sometimes it comes to a vote, sometimes it is a consensus.
Q12 Mr Winnick: Let us come to the question of what precisely is intended? Would it be right to say that if this contract goes ahead in both places, West Midlands and Surrey, what has traditionally been the work of the police-leaving aside the power of arrest, I accept entirely, hopefully, that will rest with the police-investigations, interviewing suspects and the rest, that will be the role of the private-
Chief Constable Sims: No.
Q13 Mr Winnick: Explain. When you say "No" perhaps I can put it differently. Are there any what would be described as frontline services being undertaken by the private companies involved?
Chief Constable Sims: Not that I anticipate at all. Chair, it might be helpful just to say that I think a lot of the debate that this project has sparked has really sort of been expressed in terms of outsourcing, so it is interesting that lots of the debate is what is in scope, what is out of scope. The way we are looking at this is this is about transforming the whole of the policing operation. It is about allowing us to get access to technology, access to knowhow in a way that transforms the way we operate. So will it hopefully transform the way investigation works? Absolutely, yes, but it will not be transformed by simply moving ownership of that function from West Midlands Police or Surrey Police into the hands of an operator.
Q14 Chair: Yes. I think what Mr Winnick is keen to know-we understand the vision and we understand this; we have been involved in these issues for some time-is there a list of jobs that are out for tender and is there a list of jobs that are not going to be tendered? I think that is what the Committee would like to know. Then you will deal with this question, as Mr Winnick has said, of what is the frontline and what is not.
Chief Constable Sims: Okay. The short answer is no.
Chair: There isn’t a list of jobs?
Chief Constable Sims: The short answer is no, but as we enter an OJEU process, as we go into procurement, we have to say which parts of the organisation are potentially going to be affected by the partnership activity, and from my perspective, every single part of West Midlands Police will be affected by it, because it is about uplifting our technology and changing the way we work, but none of it is as straightforward as simply saying, "Now, company X, you do this on our behalf". We have looked at that sort of model, but that is not the model that we are pursuing.
Chief Constable Owens: Just to clarify, you asked the question about outcome. From our perspective, and certainly from our perspective in Surrey, outcome is about protecting or indeed enhancing the frontline capacity and capability. It is not about reducing it. So I am very clear in my own mind of some roles I would never, ever, ever even consider the private sector being part of, neighbourhood policing, beat officers, investigation. The list is absolutely endless, but the OJEU notice has to be broad because there are subsets of the jobs that they currently do that may-may-be better done by somebody else.
Q15 Mr Winnick: Patrolling, for example?
Chief Constable Owens: Not patrolling, no.
Mr Winnick: Because that was mentioned in the press as well as interviewing suspects. You are ruling that totally out?
Chief Constable Sims: Just to clarify, we are ruling it out in terms of simply saying, "Patrolling will be done by someone else". The impact of what we are doing on the function of patrol, absolutely. New technology for officers, better mobility, better access to data, better ways of working with the public, absolutely those issues are in, therefore it affects the way patrolling operates, but I think we go back to this, that we are having this conversation-
Q16 Chair: Sorry, if I could interrupt for a second. We understand all that. I think what the Committee wants to clarify and what Mr Winnick and others will want to clarify is what is in and what is out, because I have in my hand a copy of the advert and the advert is very, very wide indeed. I don’t know whether Members of the Committee have seen it. This is the confusion for the Committee and the public, and that is why you got into a bit of a problem when this came out in the public domain. Nobody knows what is in and nobody knows what it is out; you do not appear to know either.
Chief Constable Sims: I do know precisely-
Chair: You know the vision.
Chief Constable Sims: No, nothing is in or out, because in or out is the language of outsourcing. Everything is in, in the sense that we are trying to transform our organisations top to tail in the whole way that they operate, and because we are taking that broad view, the notice that you have, what you described as the advertisement, the OJEU notice, has to indicate that those are areas of interest, but they are not of interest and Lynne and I are absolutely categorical this is not about taking a function like patrol and giving it to someone else.
Q17 Mr Winnick: Yes, but you see, when you say it is open, in reply to the Chair a few moments ago, inevitably one wonders-there is no list before us at the moment what is intended by the private companies. Inevitably, the Chief Constables, both of you, the feeling will be that if the contracts go ahead, certain frontline duties traditionally undertaken by the police will be undertaken by private companies.
Chief Constable Owens: Can I be categoric in my response to that question then?
Chair: Yes, please.
Chief Constable Owens: The answer is no, they definitely 100% won’t be.
Mr Winnick: So what are they going to do which is different from now?
Chief Constable Owens: I will try and give you some practical examples where there can be transformation.
Chair: That would be very helpful.
Mr Winnick: That would be, yes.
Chair: I think that would be helpful for all if you gave us some practical examples of what is in the bid.
Chief Constable Owens: So Chris has spoken about technology. At the moment, the police service has huge quantities of technology, but it isn’t quality technology. If you report a crime as a victim and you want to track your crime through the process, in the same way you could a parcel, you can’t do that through either of the computer systems that the force currently uses. For the frontline officer on a Friday and Saturday night, we both have officers who witness an incident and make an arrest. They then have to go and seize CCTV, they have to bring it back to the police station, they have to log it in, they have to view it, they have to draw evidence from it and only then can they question offenders. What we are saying, and this is just an example, it may-
Chair: That is very helpful.
Q18 Steve McCabe: Just to pursue that point for a second, you are really talking there about the management of information to some extent, aren’t you?
Chief Constable Owens: Yes.
Steve McCabe: Now, the Without fear or favour report described information as "the currency of corruption". I just wonder, in trying to get a better deal in the way you manage information, how will you ensure that what you are doing is transformative and doesn’t risk the very issue about corruption that the Without fear or favour report was designed to address?
Chief Constable Owens: Because one of the things that we are very clear on is that the accountability and responsibility will sit with us, so it isn’t an outsourcing model, so we will not give our Crown jewels to a private sector company.
Q19 Steve McCabe: So if I am a private bidder, what is in it for me? I am going to give you access to all my expensive technology. What am I getting out of it?
Chief Constable Owens: I don’t think that is for us to answer. That is what this OJEU notice is about.
Q20 Steve McCabe: No, but it is for you to answer, because you are going to spend a lot of public money on this process. Now, we all know, let’s be honest, that no private sector company should just simply give that to you. They are entering into a tender process because they are expecting to make money out of what you are offering, so it is for you to answer. I am asking what is in it for them, because what you are telling me, quite reasonably, I think, is that you will possibly be in a position to manage information better. That is good, but I am interested in how I know that that information is protected. How do I know that you aren’t going to do the very thing that Without fear or favour was anxious about? What is the benefit for the private sector? What are they getting? They must be getting something.
Chief Constable Sims: Well, I think the first part of that has been answered. Accountability will sit clearly with the Chief Constable through to the authority of the PCC. I think the model to think of, and let’s stick with information management at the moment, is that over many, many years, we have spent, as the service, lots of money on technology, lots of money at times on consultancy, and those things come and they go. The way I put it to my officers, I look at policing over a 30-odd year period, and much of it is recognisable from the day that I joined the service. For all the change we have made, and we have made massive change, we have not managed basically to transform the core operating style of policing. We still operate through divisions or local policing units, we still manage resources broadly at that sort of level, we still have control rooms and so on and so on. We have done the change process, we have found huge amounts of savings successfully. Now we need to get a partner or partners who will, if you like, embed with us and be incentivised, because clearly there has to be a profit here for private sector, in the way that they transform policing. If they are not transforming, then they shouldn’t be making profit. If they are transforming, then they share; while we are sharing the benefits in terms of outcomes, they share the benefits in terms of profit, and that is the model that we are looking at. We are looking at not simply buying expertise in the short term, we are looking to try and embed that expertise within the organisation, make it incentivised so that it is, corny phrase, "part of the journey with us" in the way that it transforms the outcomes of policing for the people of West Midlands and Surrey.
Q21 Steve McCabe: I am not utterly opposed to anything that says, "Look at how we can do this different over the next 30 years". The difficulty with what you are telling us at the moment is it is very hard from the very vague descriptions you have given for us to be clear what you are selling, who you are partnering with and what it is going to cost and who is going to benefit. When we look elsewhere at similar models, what we see in other sectors are the problems-Southern Cross is the obvious one that springs to mind-and I just wonder what would happen to the public of the West Midlands if your partner was to take a Southern Cross route.
But let me ask you one other thing. In about eight months’ time, you are going to have a new transformational relationship with Police and Crime Commissioners. They are the people who are being brought in to shape police attitudes and to reflect public concern. By the time they come into being, you will have spent upwards of £2 million on this exercise, and if we take Chief Constable Owens’ timescale, at the point that they come into being, you will be about eight months away from bringing it to fruition. Do you think it is right that you should make all these moves now before the Police and Crime Commissioners are in place, and is this something that is so big there should be some measure of public consultation over that?
Chair: Could we have a much briefer answer?
Chief Constable Sims: Yes. First of all-
Steve McCabe: Well, I am sorry, but I want to know this, Chair.
Chief Constable Sims: -this isn’t two Chief Constables making this process, it is two police authorities, both of whom are committed to not creating an interregnum in policing, but to keeping the momentum of change moving through the change in governance that is coming. We recognise that of course there is a risk that a PCC comes in with a completely different mandate and mindset and doesn’t want to do the route that we are going. The way I treat it is to look at it as a test. If we can come up with a proposal that is so positive in the impact it has on the people of West Midlands and Surrey, then my question is: why would any PCC not want to pursue it on behalf of the public? It is a risk, it is a test, but if we don’t do it now, the risk is, in a sense, that we stall, that we lose the 18 months of time-
Q22 Steve McCabe: Because you are so far advanced?
Chief Constable Sims: No, because in a sense, this is the natural next step in the changes that we have been making.
Q23 Dr Huppert: I can absolutely understand the need to get, for example, more technology and I have said on a number of occasions I think the police could be much better. I think, Mr Sims, you are working with Sapura in my constituency on some use of that, and that I think should be welcomed. I think the concern that you are hearing from us and from a number of other people is about the perception of what this will do to the people who are doing the tasks. So just to make sure that I understand, although things like detaining suspects, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods might be affected because of the technology used, the people who do this would still be police officers. The public would still see a police officer, even if they had an electronic gadget in their pocket which tells them where to go. Is that right?
Chief Constable Sims: Yes.
Chief Constable Owens: Yes, police officers and police staff, people employed by Chris and I.
Dr Huppert: I think that is an extremely important point, because we are very alarmed at the idea of private policing-
Chief Constable Owens: Absolutely.
Dr Huppert: -whereas the police using a piece of technology, no.
Chief Constable Sims: Not as alarmed as we are, I suspect.
Q24 Dr Huppert: But even within that, once we understand what we are trying to achieve here or what you are trying to achieve, monitoring these large contracts can be incredibly expensive.
Chief Constable Owens: Yes.
Chief Constable Sims: Yes.
Dr Huppert: Central Government certainly has an incredibly bad record with doing things like this. I hope the police can be better. But what resources have you put together for an effective monitoring function, has that come out in all the value for money calculations and what sort of scenarios did you look at in case it all does go wrong?
Chief Constable Owens: We are very alive to that. The reality is that many forces around the country have privatised arrangements already with small subsets of their business such as custody. but it would be, if we go with it, on a different scale. One of the things that that up to £5 million-it isn’t £5 million, it is up to £5 million-is going to be spent on is some support to ask exactly those questions: how would we properly set the contract, what financial penalties and other penalties would there be in the contract, how would we monitor it? We recognise that that is a risk. So we currently are out to procurement for a short-term consultancy, which is what the £5 million is for-to help us frame that aspect, because we recognise there is not that expertise in policing.
Q25 Dr Huppert: But there is the framing the contract to start with and then there is the actual monitoring later on, which is really the cost.
Chief Constable Owens: Yes, and that is part of it. It is part of the same-
Chief Constable Sims: Part of it is about growing our capability. We already have lots of contracts, but you are absolutely right, nothing at the scale and complexity that this potentially would be. So we recognise that, in a sense, it is a new challenge to management within policing and we will need to bring in expertise.
Q26 Dr Huppert: Possibly I slightly misunderstood. Some part of the up to £5 million will be used to develop the capacity to monitor the £1.5 billion to £3.5 billion contract, or will there be more money during the length of the contract specifically on monitoring?
Chief Constable Owens: The money is more to describe to us how we would do that. It is to describe the process for what is to happen and not to buy the people who do it.
Q27 Dr Huppert: So you will have a specific monitoring budget as part of the ultimate contract?
Chief Constable Owens: Yes. One of the things that we have been talking about is how we would have to build a different-effectively we would be a customer of a service. I think Chris and I share a joint view that if we go for this process, you would want somebody from the private sector company potentially as part of your management board so that as Chief Constables we could hold them to account in the same way we do our ACCs and other people.
Q28 Dr Huppert: But that means that you would have to have only one company or a very small number of companies doing this whole contract.
Chief Constable Owens: Yes.
Chief Constable Sims: Yes.
Dr Huppert: Does that not restrict the type of innovative technologies you can get involved in, because there are lots of organisations that do creative things, but not-
Chief Constable Sims: Again, I am in danger of straying into the procurement process, but my expectation is that we will be looking for a principal partner or principal consortium of partners who would take on the responsibility of integrating our effort with probably a range of other potential suppliers.
Q29 Lorraine Fullbrook: Have you invited any companies to tender for the contract yet?
Chief Constable Sims: No.
Chief Constable Owens: No. One of the things that Chris and I are rapidly having to become is minor experts in the procurement process. It is one of the reasons that I think we have ended up in this fairly tricky place, because the procurement advice was that you had to construct a very wide notice so that it covered every aspect that you could have them look at, but in putting out that notice it didn’t come with an accompanying public script that people have been able to understand, so that is one of the things that we are now having to work on. But what the procurement process requires is that you put the documents on there and then people bid in, so we don’t proactively approach, that isn’t what the European process encourages.
Chief Constable Sims: So we have 264 organisations that have responded to the original OJEU notice. Over 15 months, we will boil those down, and particularly the critical stage is where we go into what is called competitive dialogue, where in effect we lay upon the table the outcomes that we are seeking and the different organisations or consortia that are part of the process will make different efforts to show how they can deliver those outcomes.
Q30 Lorraine Fullbrook: So to do that, you would have to speak to several companies, not just one single company?
Chief Constable Owens: Yes, absolutely.
Chief Constable Sims: Absolutely.
Q31 Lorraine Fullbrook: So as the trailblazers really for transforming the policing face to the public and improving outcomes substantially, would your forces be the trailblazers for other forces in the UK?
Chief Constable Sims: At the moment, the reason I think why and the rationale for Surrey and West-Mid, who are two very different forces, geographically different-
Chief Constable Owens: They are.
Chief Constable Sims: -the reason that we are working together is that we feel that if a solution to an issue can be found that bridges our two forces, then it is likely to have an applicability far wider. We are far, far too early to bring other forces in or invite them to come in.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Yes, I appreciate that, I appreciate that.
Chief Constable Sims: But there are lots of forces that are carefully following what we are doing and at some point in the future, they will no doubt make choices, if we come up with something that is interesting enough for them to pursue.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Super, that is really what I wanted. I do understand that you are early in the process.
Q32 Mr Winnick: It would be easier for the Committee if we knew more details about precisely the roles to be played if this contract or contracts go ahead. Now, with due respect, it has been pretty vague at the moment. Both of you were very strenuous in saying that the sort of illustrations I gave of where the private companies could be involved would not occur, but what we don’t know, and I am not sure that you are in the position to tell us now, is what precisely will be included and what will be excluded.
Chief Constable Sims: Again, Chair, this is not a helpful type of question, because it is coming back to this-
Mr Winnick: You are not being helpful at the moment, so I can’t help that.
Chief Constable Sims: Well, it isn’t, because it is-
Chair: Chief Constable, with the greatest of respect to you, and we have enormous respect for you and admire the work that you have done, I think it is up to the Committee to ask its own questions.
Chief Constable Sims: Well, let me explain. Let me justify-
Chair: Whether it is helpful or not, maybe you could answer that.
Chief Constable Sims: -that slightly outrageous comment, which I withdraw.
Chair: Thank you.
Chief Constable Sims: But it comes back, I am afraid, to this issue that we are not looking at simply outsourcing functions, so it is immaterial whether we had a list of things that are in or out. We are looking to lay on the table outcomes, and the sort of outcomes we are looking at is how we manage information better, how we manage resources better, how we interrelate with customers and the citizen better.
Chair: Yes, but Mr Sims-
Mr Winnick: If I may, Chair-
Chair: Yes, of course.
Mr Winnick: -the press were quite-they may have been wrong, the press-
Chief Constable Sims: They were wrong, yes.
Mr Winnick: Yes, but what surprises me is that The Guardian, for example, published a list of likely responsibilities if this contract goes through. Yes, you are shaking your head. The fact remains I would have thought there would have been a response from you or from the Home Office saying, "This is not so".
Chief Constable Sims: Well, it wouldn’t be from Home Office, it would be us.
Mr Winnick: Yes.
Chief Constable Sims: But the thing is, what The Guardian-
Q33 Mr Winnick: But there was no such denial, was there?
Chief Constable Sims: No, there wasn’t, because I am in the middle of a procurement process and it is difficult to respond, but look, what the-
Mr Winnick: If it is difficult to respond, if I could interrupt, Chief Constable, why should not we, as Members of Parliament for the West Midland constituencies, my colleague and myself-
Chair: Or the Select Committee.
Mr Winnick: -not come to the view that there is substance in what the press reports said?
Chief Constable Sims: Well, I don’t know. No reason.
Chief Constable Owens: Can I just come back on that?
Chair: Yes, Chief Constable Owens.
Chief Constable Owens: I think I have already made clear that when we put the procurement notice on this portal that we have to upload it to, I think our mistake was not providing a more broad and public explanation about what we were looking at, because I don’t think-and I didn’t when I took up this role-people understand the breadth of what a procurement process is. The reason you have those broad descriptors-I genuinely understand why they cause concern for people, and therefore I understand why The Guardian article caused the reaction it did. But the reality is that it is a broad descriptor of roles that are undertaken that are about transformation based on information and technology in support. Unfortunately, the procurement process requires us to describe it. There aren’t words to describe it in any other way-
Chair: Of course.
Chief Constable Owens: -but we have been completely forceful in saying that this is not about giving over the powers of officers or constables on the frontline to the private sector. That would be no more acceptable to us than it would be to you or to the public.
Q34 Chair: We understand what you are saying, and we are not saying that everything that is written in The Guardian this Committee accepts as gospel, though it is a wonderful paper. I don’t know whether you remember the exchange between the Prime Minister and the then MP for Manchester about posts in Manchester. The Committee has in the past established a list of posts that are currently conducted by the police that has come from the Chief Constable of Manchester, Peter Fahy. I am going to let you have a look at it, because if it is helpful to you, you may want to have a look at it and respond to the Committee perhaps at a later stage in more detail on some of the issues. It is like a bit of homework here. You can have a look at it-not now, of course; it is a long list-and let us know which policing functions are part of these themes.
What you seem to be saying to this Committee, Mr Sims, is that you believe and Ms Owens believes that there is a mandate for something wider than individual posts; it is to look at the whole landscape of policing. What you seem to be conducting is not a procurement process, but an important, very large seminar, including potential bidders, who are all coming to the table to meet with you to decide how to do things better. Is that kind of right?
Chief Constable Sims: Except that might trivialise it in the eyes of-
Chair: I don’t mean to trivialise it.
Chief Constable Sims: We are absolutely serious about moving-
Chair: But it is a debate you are having with these bidders.
Chief Constable Sims: Well, the competitive dialogue invites them to be creative. The alternative is to go out and specify what you want. I am not an expert in IT to know what is potentially applicable from other sectors. It allows a creative response from potential partners.
Chair: We understand that. Can we just urge you to look at the Committee’s last report? I don’t know if you are familiar with the work of Lord Wasserman. He seems to be creating his own IT company, and we would not like to see a duplication between what the Home Secretary is rightly trying to do on IT and what you are trying to do in your bid. I hope that there is suitable dialogue.
Chief Constable Sims: If I can reassure you, I have met with the Policing Minister and Lord Wasserman. We have, we believe, deconflicted those two pieces.
Chair: Excellent. You are very lucky, we don’t get to meet Lord Wasserman.
Q35 Lorraine Fullbrook: Is it not the case that you can’t tell the Committee specifically what functions will be done, because you are not really in a procurement process? What you are doing is business process re-engineering of your forces to improve outcomes. So at this stage of the business process re-engineering, you can’t be specific about the functions and how they would work. It’s about delivering that function in another way, in a better way, so I think part of your problem is how you articulate this contract.
Chief Constable Sims: Yes.
Lorraine Fullbrook: This isn’t about procurement, this is about business process re-engineering of your forces.
Chief Constable Sims: Well, it is about procurement, because the business process re-engineering is through the medium of a partner agency. But I think that absolutely what you are saying is right. If we knew the answers, we wouldn’t be going through the process of discovery. But it is a procurement process and we are seriously looking to find-
Q36 Chair: It is a procurement process?
Chief Constable Sims: It is a procurement process.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Yes, it is, that is the outcome, but what the forces are trying to do is, as both the Chief Constables have said, improve outcomes and transform policing for the public, and to do that, you have to look at your whole business-
Chair: Thank you very much for that.
Lorraine Fullbrook: -and so they are reorganising their processes.
Chair: Mrs Fullbrook, it needed your expertise with words to put this in a nutshell.
Lorraine Fullbrook: My business expertise, Chair.
Q37 Steve McCabe: One model we do have where we have a bit of information is the Steria model with Cleveland Police, which I understand is about a £175 million contract, 10 years, and it covers all sorts of things like better IT, management of information, finances, HR and procurement. Of course one of the slight downsides is when the reductions in their budget came along, because they were tied into a 10-year contract, the cuts had to fall on frontline services, so in effect, you get rid of police officers to pay for the private sector partnering. How are you going to avoid something like that happening in Surrey, or in my case, I am much more worried about it happening in Birmingham.
Chief Constable Owens: Can I just answer from a Surrey perspective first of all? I don’t know the detail of Cleveland. Some of my team and Chris’ team have been to have a look at it-
Steve McCabe: But presumably you are looking at it, given what you are doing.
Chief Constable Owens: If you let me finish, because my personal view is the risk that you have just articulated is clearly the case. If we simply outsourced, if we took the finance function of Surrey Police and gave it to an outsource provider, I lock down that element for any future budget cuts that may come. That is why we are not doing that. That is why this is a transformational programme that looks for end to end business. It is process engineering, as has been described.
Q38 Steve McCabe: Were Steria at the contract meeting last week? id they come along? Were they one of the people-
Chief Constable Sims: I don’t know. There were 60-
Steve McCabe: You don’t know?
Chief Constable Sims: There were 60-odd companies represented. Let me reassure the Committee that there are probably five forces that are doing some of this work, Cleveland, Lincolnshire, Avon and Somerset, Cheshire and Northampton, and we have spent a lot of time as we have moved into this process looking at what they are doing. I think each is appropriate for the challenges that those forces face-
Chair: That is very helpful, because that is one of the things that we wanted to know, in respect of-
Chief Constable Sims: But it is substantially different.
Chair: -you have looked at what is happening.
Chief Constable Sims: Very much, and learnt a lot, particularly around procurement processes and management and ongoing contracts. These are all things we can learn from, so-
Q39 Chair: So would it be possible for some of the forces to bid for some of these contracts, some of these issues that you are putting forward? For example, if Avon and Somerset are doing something particularly well, could they take over and provide those services for the rest?
Chief Constable Sims: I suppose their supplier could bid, but what I would say, really for all those examples that I have mentioned, they are narrowly looking at back office and principally through the medium of outsourcing. We have looked at it; we have done the metrics on back office. Back office is tiny in policing as we have discussed before, and it does not do for us-
Q40 Steve McCabe: But doesn’t the Steria contract include procurement? Isn’t that what-
Chief Constable Sims: Well, I would call that back office. It is an ongoing debate, but support activity.
Q41 Chair: In respect of the Westland Midlands’ own outsourcing history, I think you outsourced the contracts for interpreters, saving £750,000 for the West Midlands. Is that right?
Chief Constable Sims: We do have a contract for interpreters, yes.
Chair: Yes, but you noticed the question raised by Gisela Stuart to the Prime Minister. Even though you have outsourced this contract, you know the concerns about Applied Language Solutions-
Chief Constable Sims: I do.
Chair: -that they don’t have the interpreters?
Chief Constable Sims: We are working very hard to get that service right, but once again-
Chair: So you noted that that was-
Chief Constable Sims: I am all over that issue, I know it.
Chief Constable Sims: But what we are not doing here is simply outsourcing.
Q42 Chair: No, I understand that. In respect of G4S, you notice also that East Midlands Airport having outsourced their security to G4S has now taken it back in house.
Chief Constable Sims: I didn’t know that.
Chair: I will send you the details. I will allow Mr Winnick a final bite of the cherry, because he is your local MP.
Q43 Mr Winnick: You were both very clear and emphasised that what was being proposed was not frontline duties. I have before me a report. I am afraid it did appear in The Guardian, but I can’t help that, from an interview with the Greater Manchester Chief Constable.
Chair: Peter Fahy.
Mr Winnick: He referred to the West Midlands and Surrey tendering process. For example, and I am quoting from him, he said: "There were elements in a criminal investigation that did not need to be done by a police officer". He went on to say that the office of constable restricted the power of arrest, but that did not mean that others could not help to protect the public, and he gave examples that the private companies could be involved in preparing routine witness statements, searching woodlands and so on. But what is particularly important is what I quoted a moment ago: "elements in a criminal investigation that did not need to be undertaken by a police officer". Surely that must be a frontline duty.
Chair: Chief Constable Owens?
Chief Constable Owens: I think we are confusing two things here. Already in Surrey, we have been through a massive change programme which has looked at what roles are undertaken by police officers and what roles can be undertaken by police staff, and there are some roles that don’t need police officer powers and responsibilities. We are both really proud to be police officers. There are amazing police officers every day of the week that protect this country, and that would always continue, but we would still not look to outsource; none of this is about outsourcing. I still want police officers and police staff, and I keep stressing those two phrases, that work for me to do those things.
Chair: Very helpful, and now, I have started all the West Midland MPs off. Very briefly, Mr McCabe.
Q44 Steve McCabe: I just want to know, before you enter into signing any contracts, will there be a public sector comparator for this, because this is a lot of public money in what is traditionally a public service.
Chair: A quick yes/no is really fine by me.
Chief Constable Sims: Again, you can get comparisons on outsourcing, because you have a service level that you can describe and compare. I am not aware that you can easily get comparators around transformation when what you are focusing on is a change of outcomes. I think narrowly within the bigger piece you can, but I don’t think you can get an overall comparator.
Chair: Thank you both for coming in. I know you are extremely busy people. I have given you a list of those posts that originally comes from Peter Fahy. Since we have mentioned The Guardian list, which I have not seen, it would be very helpful if you could also look at that as well. We understand what you are saying about the thematic approach of what you are doing, but in terms of the work of this Committee, practicalities are very important in the way in which we look at things. We understand the vision in what you are trying to do, but I think at the end of the day, the public and Parliament want to know actual detail. It would be extremely helpful if you could go through that list and also The Guardian list and write to me about it. But thank you both very much indeed for coming.
Chief Constable Sims: Thank you very much.
Supplementary written evidence submitted by Chief Constable CHRIS SIMS, West Midlands Police [PC01]
Attendance at Home Affairs Select Committee—22 March 2012
Thank you for your letter requesting which roles are outwith the scope of the contract that we discussed in the evidence session on 22 March 2012.
The project is not an exercise in outsourcing but a process to transform the way in which West Midlands Police serves its communities. As such, every part of the current organisation will be affected by business partnering.
We have developed some design principals to support the project. These fully recognise that activity that relies on police professional expertise and/or entails the exercise of police powers will sit within the direction and control of the Chief Constable. Equally it is possible to identify support activities such as fleet management and human resources that, although still subject to transformation; could operate under the direction of the business partner. In between these two positions sits the majority of the force where a blend of partner technology and knowhow and police decision making will exist. Beyond these principals at this stage it is not possible to give a more specific answer to your question.
I hope the above is helpful, however; if I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.
26 April 2012