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Monday, March 05, 2012

Labour hypocrisy on police privatisation

Like many others I am uneasy about alleged plans to privatise the police, but I do think that we need a bit of context in this debate. In the face of a very difficult economic climate and cuts by both this government and the previous Labour government in police budgets it is vital that everything possible is done to protect front line policing.

Irrespective of what Chief Constables decide to do, it should be clear that any move to put services out to private tender will not lead to private sector vigilantes in police uniform patrolling our streets as has been suggested by some. The office of constable restricts the power of arrest to a warranted officer and is a fundamental safeguard for the public.

There are police tasks that do not need to be carried out by fully trained officers. These include guarding prisoners, searching woodlands, preparing routine witness statements and providing intelligence analysis to murder inquiries. In fact many forces have used civilians for these jobs for many years. Is it not right that Police Authorities get best value so as to maximise front-line policing?

What stikes me most about this issue however, is Labour's hypocrisy. The party's most prominent candidate for Police Commissioner, John Prescott has described the privatisation plans as "alarming" and has said that he will fight the proposals. However, it was the Police Reform Act 2002 which opened the doors to allowing privatisation of parts and services that the police currently provide.

That was a Labour Act of Parliament, which was passed when John Prescott was in Government. If he was so opposed to some police services being privatised why didn't he say so at the time?
I agree that this isn't going to directly replace front line officers, but rather than outsource to a private, profit-making company could they not hire 'admin' staff internally to fill those roles. Any 'profit' is then recycled back into the police forces rather than sent out.

Swansea council for example pay a private company Swansea City Waste Disposal Company Ltd. around £8.1 million per year. This company then sell the recycling to other private companies for a profit! Namely, all wood is sold to a company called KRONSPAN.

Swansea City Waste Disposal Company Ltd. perform one task for Swansea Council and to me all this profit should belong to the council and not the private company. At the end of the last accounting period, Swansea City Waste Disposal Company Ltd. were sitting on £1,668,435 cash at bank which is entirely profit.

The same thing will happen if this work is privatised, public money will be sent to private companies and pool in director profits leaving the door wide open for bosom buddies in corporation/political relationships to abuse the system even more than they have.
Peter, you're spot-on in blaming Labour for the cause of this.

But is this really all entirely harmless?

Incident response and crime investigation are broad definitions in terms of scope. Combine this with the profit motive (this is potentially a good area for non-profit public interest companies) and you have the potential for much danger.
I would hope that any "profit" that the Waste Disposal Company makes is ploughed back into improving the technology. Or perhaps they can buy the Neath Port Talbot recycling centre which is now up for sale? Integration would make sense.
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