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Is this the future of policing in modern Britain?

The police and shared services are not words often seen together in the same sentence, but Cleveland police authority has just announced a £175m shared services contract with Steria – beating off rivals CapGemini and Reliance.

The deal covers the police control room, community justice, and other back-office functions and aims to deliver £50m in cash savings over the life of the 10-year contract.

There has been some shared service activity in various police authorities before, but it’s mainly confined to the sharing of procurement with local councils or back office functions such as human resources. This deal is interesting because it’s the actual control room that is being taken over by a private contractor.

And though some purists might argue that uniformed officers should control a police control room, there are many who now argue that the police should be focused on making a difference in the community – the office-based tasks are better served by a specialist contractor. The kind of services being taken on by Steria in Cleveland include call handling, support for the preparation of criminal case files, and shared business services covering finance, HR, payroll, commissioning and fleet management. It’s a comprehensive outsource of non-core activities allowing the bobbies to get back on the beat.

Steria will be moving into the control room at Cleveland police headquarters. There is no question of tasks being remotely outsourced to a remote location. Chairman of Cleveland Police Authority, David McCluckie said: “It is important to stress that this is a genuine partnership - Steria will work with us in providing services, but the control of responding to calls from the public will remain firmly with the Force - and the control room will remain at our Force headquarters.”

Naturally Steria are pleased with the deal. It confirms their status as a key player in the British public sector, with five years experience now of partnering with the Department of Health to deliver NHS back-office services. John Torrie, CEO of Steria UK, commented: “We feel proud to have been selected by Cleveland Police and we are looking forward to working in a true partnership with them to deliver ever better services to the citizens of Cleveland”.

Why is this deal important? It shows that the British police are ready to modernise and explore shared services in a way that allows them to reduce costs to the taxpayer and also improve policing services. The public doesn’t want uniformed officers shuffling paper in Force headquarters so this is the kind of outsourcing that not only helps the client, but should be popular with the public too.

As the ConDem coalition seeks to make further cuts in the public sector, this kind of deal should be where the politicians look for inspiration. Many British police forces are ripe for modernisation and if a deal like this can be hammered out in Cleveland with a demonstrable saving of £50m in cash and an improvement in public service then it won’t be long before others are looking at this as an example of best practice in sourcing and shared services.

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is Offshoring Director at the National Outsourcing Association.

Posted by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary on 06/15 at 08:39 AM

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