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Clarity needed on MPS outsourcing proposals
11 Jun 2015

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) should consider internal options before outsourcing services to the private sector and must have "absolute clarity" on what its objectives are, the London Assembly has been told.

Addressing the Assembly's Budget and Performance Committee, which discussed outsourcing at the MPS, members were told that outsourcing is not the only way to drive down costs.

Last week, MPS Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said outsourcing opportunities are being looked at to help the force deliver additional savings of £800 million by 2020. It has already identified £600 million since 2010.

But representatives from other public sectors, who were invited to the meeting, urged the MPS to consider all its options, pointing out that simple measures, such as effective performance management of staff, could help deliver greater efficiencies.

John Tizard, the former director for the Centre for Public Service Partnerships, said: "All too often, particularly in the public sector, there is an assumption that outsourcing will solve all their problems.

"It seems to me the starting point must be absolute clarity on objectives. You have to think about how it fits into the overall political and sociological objectives of the organisation."

He added: "If the client is inefficient and ineffective then the likelihood is the outsourcing will be ineffective.

"Service improvement can be achieved in a variety of ways. You need to identify the options of meeting that need, you need to understand how that can be met internally."

Mr Tizard also warned that the leadership of the MPS must be clear on what it wants from outsourcing and must not leave developments completely in the hands of procurement teams, adding that leaders must take responsibility and ensure objectives are being met. He also emphasised that leaders of the MPS must be held to account during the time outsourcing projects are live.

Stephen Hughes, former chief executive of Birmingham City Council, told the Assembly that outsourcing can bring major benefits but warned that it will fail if the MPS is not clear on its strategy and if effective and ongoing management of any arrangements are missing.

"You have to consider whether in each case an outsource solution is the best way to deliver those savings or if there is an alternative to it," he said.

"There is a real risk to transferring to the private sector because you’re allowing your outsourcer to catch all the benefits that will come out of potential savings, and perhaps you should be passing over something fit for purpose and then seeking these other benefits from them rather than giving away your biggest potential savings."

Kerry Hallard, chief executive of the National Outsourcing Association (NOA), echoed the calls of her peers and said the culture of the MPS is important to the successful delivery of any outsourcing programme. She warned that if there is no strategic or cultural alignment in an organisation, then outsourcing is likely to fail.

Ms Hallard also highlighted that "softer" issues must also be considered, and pointed to work done by the NOA with Cleveland Police.

She said the force outsourced its command and control services with the aim of getting 40 officers back on to the frontline.

She said: "It wasn't just about how quickly it could get the phone answered or about money."

In December last year the MPS agreed to outsource business support services, specifically finance, procurement and some human resources transactional services.

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