Private companies are being invited to bid to run a range of Met police services as part of the force’s efforts to cut costs by 2016 in the wake of funding cuts.
The cost-cutting has already seen dozens of police front counters earmarked for closure and police buildings sold off. The Met is also cutting the number of senior officers and selling-off its Scotland Yard HQ.
To help achieve the savings, Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey today announced HR services, expenses management, catering and logistical services and Criminal Justice services would be market-tested.
Scotland Yard says the aim is to see whether the private sector can deliver better value for taxpayers.
Mr Mackey promised that the exercise would evaluate “quality and value and not just seek to cut costs” and suggested the Met’s existing n-house teams teams would be able to demonstrate their value for money.
He said that a similar process in respect of Forensic Services “found our own team were better value than what the market could offer.”
Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said the private sector was being asked “to show the Met where they could come in and provide better police support services at a lower cost.”
Both men stressed that core and frontline policing roles, such as patrolling, emergency response and investigations would not be outsourced.
Last year Mayor Boris Johnson said he was willing to consider privatising police services beyond “an irreducible core” of duties which require “the use of police powers”.
He also suggested “competitive tendering of contracts beyond this irreducible core provides a means of cutting costs considerably without making the thin blue line any thinner. It is therefore something that should be explored.”
Today’s announcement has been endorsed as “common sense” by Tony Arbour, a Conservative member of the London Assembly.
Mr Arbour said: “Our priority should be keeping Londoners safe and making sure crooks and villains are brought to justice. It is common sense to explore whether the private sector can help improve back office services whilst saving the taxpayer money.
“Anyone who’s knee-jerk reaction is to automatically reject this proposal should specify exactly what front line services they would cut instead and what savings they would make.”
Green Party AM Baroness Jenny Jones said: “With outsourcing the concerns are always accountability, security and competence. We have already seen from the debacle with G4S that the private sector does not always equal good service. Nothing should be outsourced which gives private companies access to people’s personal information.
“Also, developing the specialist skills needed for quality work such as forensic healthcare provision in custody or criminal justice services isn’t something that can be provided by the lowest bidder. When people’s lives and safety are at stake the Met must not lose control over vital services, and in the process lose many dedicated staff.
“The Mayor’s obsession with maintaining police officer numbers has tied the Met’s hands which is why it is now forced to turn to privatisation.”
Labour’s Joanne McCartney said: “These proposals must not be about selling off the Metropolitan Police to the lowest bidder. We urgently need the Mayor to clarify what aspect of the Criminal Justice Services will be outsourced and we need reassurance about the level of quality being sought. Policing is too important to put at risk. We saw during the Olympics with G4S these contracts can go very wrong, with the taxpayer picking up the pieces afterwards.
“Boris should be finding ways to save money by keeping Human Resources in-house and sharing services with other parts of the Greater London Authority family. This has been successful with the London Fire Brigade.”