London’s spending watchdog has warned that plans to privatise key back office roles could leave the Met “handcuffed” to poor value deals and at risk of a “high-profile outsourcing failure” which harms its performance and reputation.
The force is currently drawing up plans to outsource back office and support functions in order to meet an expected £800m in funding cuts.
It’s already slashed the number of senior officers within its ranks and closed and sold dozens of police stations and buildings, including its world famous Scotland Yard HQ, in order to meet earlier budget cuts of £600m.
Outsourcing functions such as finance, procurement and HR to private contractors is expected to save around £16m per year.
However a report by the Assembly’s Budget & Performance Committee warns that a lack of commercial expertise within the Met could leave the force with poorly negotiated contracts which fail to deliver the expected savings.
Citing failures in the government’s tagging contracts with G4S and Serco, today’s report also cautions that the force risks seeing its performance worsened and reputation damaged unless contracts are tightly controlled.
To achieve good value, Assembly Members say existing in-house teams should be allowed to show they can reform services and cut costs before their roles are outsourced.
AMs also want all decisions to outsource specific functions “to contain an explicit assessment of how the Met could return to an in-house arrangement in the future.”
Committee chair John Biggs said: “The funding challenge facing the Met is undoubtedly tough – but there is a real risk to the public if it signs a bad deal.
“In particular, the Met must ensure it has the business nous to find the right commercial partners and then manage contracts effectively to ensure Londoners’ money is spent wisely.”
“The stakes are very high – no-one wants to see yet another high-profile outsourcing botch.”
Commenting on the report, a Met spokesperson said it was “vital that savings are made in order to protect frontline services” and ensure “the capital remains one of the safest cities in the world to live in and visit.”
The spokesperson added: “Several of the recommendations will require a more detailed assessment before they are agreed as the full extent of the options appraisal undertaken and the time taken by the Met to arrive at their decision is not fully reflected in the report.
“The report highlights the critical need to get all elements of the commercial life cycle right.
“The illumination provided will be valuable in further improving the commercial strategy and helping the Met meet the enormous challenge of the next spending review.”