Is outsourcing Police back office a good idea?
All across the Public Sector right now, there are announcements about shared services arrangements springing up. Local Authorities in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire are joining up to share back office functions and whilst the devil in the detail doesn’t look as good as the headlines trumpet, it certainly is the shape of things to come.
I’m curious (as a Gloucestershire resident) why all/more of the District Authorities haven’t joined in if the savings are that good, and why we (Gloucestershire) are allowing our posh neighbours from Oxfordshire to join in. I wonder how much of my Council Tax is paying for their system?
Off my normal topic, BUT it’s interesting to note that this also is also ‘Unitary by osmosis’. Many County Councils have formally gone unitary (e.g. Shropshire), absorbing in their districts, and this shared services process is effectively creating ‘a mini Unitary’ by the back door. Is there a democratic implication here?
Anyway, the reason I raise all of this is down to another article I read, about three Police Forces wanting to go down the shared/ outsourced services route . We in industry typically like this kind of thing, as it allows us to bid for nice new contracts as either prime or subcontractors. However, at the weekend I was chatting to some friends of mine who, in addition to being thoroughly nice people with two adorable small children, are both serving police officers. And making the cardinal sin of asking one of them about outsourcing, they made an interesting point which hadn’t occurred to me before.
If you outsource staff, probably TUPEing them from civilian officer roles into private sector roles, you lose them from the Police Force (natch). The upside here is they are off the police pay and pension roll (although you still have to pay for them somehow). The downside is, as my friend pointed out, if the merde hits the fan, you can’t pull them into more front line duties. Gloucestershire isn’t really a hotbed for riots and civil disobedience (unless you count the Frocester Beer Festival which can get a bit rowdy), but it’s a useful point.
It’s a rare thing that matters get out of hand to such an extent that riot gear is used, but as last summer illustrated, it’s not unlikely, especially as the world economy looks shakier by the day. So is Public Security in jeopardy? If police forces cannot pull staff onto front line duties (or even just-behind-frontline services to support officers getting bricks thrown at them) because they aren’t police staff any more we ALL suffer.
I don’t know what the answer is, but when serving officers who patently give a hoot about their roles are concerned about such things, I think we should be worried.