On 4 November three police forces, Leicester, Nottinghamshire and Northants, announced they are considering outsourcing their control room and have asked multinational G4S to carry out a feasibility study to see what they can offer – this will include dealing with 999 and 101 (non-emergency) calls.
Year-on-year budget cuts mean that forces are having to make difficult decisions to try and save money. Since 2010, there has been a 25 per cent real terms reduction in central government funding to Police and Crime Commissioners (NAO, 2015) . So far, 36,672 jobs have been lost, which includes a 20 per cent reduction in police staff. Our police services, including 999 call takers, scene of crime investigators and detention officers – are struggling due to increased workloads and staff shortages, and further budget cuts are coming down the line.
Police services are a public service – not a business to be bought and sold as a commodity. Moves to privatise police services are not popular with the public. A survey in the West Midlands in 2012 by Mass 1 found that three in five respondents said they would be less likely to report a crime if their personal information was being accessed by a third party, and the same proportion stated they were not comfortable with private firms handling 999 calls, crime detection or investigations.
Privatisation of public services has invariably been accompanied by less transparency and a lack of accountability. In 2012, G4S and Serco were investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and repaid £180m to the government for overcharging for their electronic monitoring contracts. On top of this, the government did not act in our best interests – continuing to award contracts to G4S and Serco while they were still under investigation, which only came to light due to an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee (2014).
Austerity is a threat to the future of our police services and we will continue to campaign against their privatisation and outsourcing.