Home Office Creates Private Police Technology Company

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Police ICT Company will cut costs by combining contracts

As promised last year, the Home Office has formed a private company to handle ICT procurement for law enforcement, a move it is hoped will help cut the cost of police technology such as telecommunications services and software licences.

On Monday Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons that the Police ICT Company has been set up under the joint ownership of the Home Office and the Association of Police Authorities (APA), and will be handed over to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) once they are elected in November.

Cutting police technology costs

“The purpose of The Police ICT Company at this stage, through its board of directors, is to provide governance and oversight of the activities necessary to make the company fully operational after PCCs are elected,” May said in a written ministerial statement laid before the House of Commons. “These activities include generating the long term ownership group, agreeing the governance of the ownership group and development of the business plan and organisational design.”

The company has been designed to give police forces access to better deals by consolidating their purchasing power, according to Nick Herbert, minister for policing and criminal justice.

“There are 2,000 systems between the 43 forces of England and Wales, and individual forces have not always driven the most effective deals,” he stated. “By harnessing the purchasing power of police forces, the new company will be able to drive down costs, save taxpayers’ money, and help to improve police and potentially wider criminal justice IT systems in future.”

The Home Office noted that the police service currently spends £106m per year with one telecommunications provider, while the forces hold more than 300 separate software licences with a single software supplier. The company will aim to consolidate such large-scale arrangements.

It will provide strategic ICT advice and guidance to forces as well as handling procurement, implementation and management of police ICT, according to the Home Office. This should free chief officers from in-depth involvement in ICT management, as well as allowing greater innovation, the Home Office said.

Best practice

Separately, a new independent college of policing will aim to reduce bureaucracy and improve policing standards. The body will aim to identify and share best practice among officers.

May first announced the company in July of last year, projecting that it would be operational by spring 2012.

At a summer conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, May insisted that while some aspects of the police needed to remain local, certain things such as procurement was tying up too much local resources.

“So you can see the coherence of our reforms: national decisions made nationally; local decisions made locally; and individual decisions made individually, by police officers,” she said.

“Good ICT systems and services are vital for modern policing. ICT supports the police on the front line, through items like portable radios and PDAs,” she said. “It supports the middle office, through things like criminal records databases, intelligence and crime mapping. And it supports the back office, through HR, finance, accounting and payroll systems.”

Her speech comes as British police last year finally set up a database that allowed police forces around the country to share and access locally-held intelligence.

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