Conservative governments in the UK love privatisation. Fact.
Many of the ills of the UK energy industry, water services, public transport companies and more stem back to the Margaret Thatcher era of Conservative government. There was money to be made out of privatisation and it is not hard to find out who made it. Sadly for the population as a whole it was a lose, lose process. Competition for example in UK rail services led to different parts of the industry being owned by different companies. A train journey across the UK now involves the use of many different companies and the standard of travel, plus pricing, varies greatly.
The current Coalition government is Conservative led. Whilst the Tories need the Liberal Democrats right now to stay in office the Tories are still the majority player in the agreement. Whether this means that the two parties are happy with plans to privatise the UK Police Force is not clear. Of course Tory followers and politicians will probably be ecstatic.
There are many issues raised by the new proposals but firstly what are the proposals?
According to the Guardian:-"Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two of the largest police forces in the country. West Midlands and Surrey have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.The contract is the largest on police privatisation so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved. This scale dwarfs the recent £200m contract between Lincolnshire police and G4S, under which half the force's civilian staff are to join the private security company, which will also build and run a police station for the first time."
The Guardian also carried this link: A 26-page "commercial in confidence" contract note seen by the GuardianSo let's take a look at a few of the negatives surrounding the issue of privatisation of the UK police force. It is not rocket science and they are blatantly obvious when you come to think about it.
With most things there are some positives. The few here seem to be that privatisation:-
- Security firms in the UK have a bad track record. Whilst some work better than others most have many problems. This is not said lightly but by someone who had a close relative working for such a company for 7 years. The recruitment processes are less vigorous than for joining the police force and too many "bad apples manage" to secure work.
- The Coalition government has made a commitment to cutting the numbers of police officers in the UK in an attempt to save money. Obviously this new proposals will be much cheaper. Cheaper is not always the best or most appropriate service though, is it? We already have security firms more involved with prison security than they should be. They too do not have a great track record.
- The West Midlands and Surrey police will be the first UK forces involved. These are the largest forces in the UK. They often send officers to other areas during times of trouble, such as the 2011 riots. Cheap labour wil mean that there is a veritable army of "security" personnel able to control crowds and protests. Yes well this blogger IHOH feels that such protests are bound to increase, given such government policies.
- West Midlands and Surrey police will offer a £1.5bn contract. Now who is going to be running the firms able to secure such contracts?
- How safe is the nation's personal Data going to be? You draw your own conclusion.
- Privatisation will undermine and demoralise our proper police force considerably.
- Who will lead this non police force and train them?
Wikipedia carries a little pertinent information about G45 security group and its UK ties:-
- Will cost less.
- Will be able to increase manpower numbers at a cut price rate.
- Those on the boards of such companies or the firms owners will make "big bucks"
- Cheap crowd control if civil unrest continues or grows in the UK.
- G4S plc (formerly Group 4 Securicor) is a global security services company headquartered in Crawley, United Kingdom. It is the world's largest security company measured by revenues and has operations in more than 125 countries. With over 630,000 employees, it is the world's second-largest private sector employer (after Wal-Mart Stores).
- G4S has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and it is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has a secondary listing on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.G4S has its origins in a guarding business founded in Copenhagen in 1901 by Marius Hogrefe originally known as Kjøbenhavn Frederiksberg Nattevagt and subsequently renamed Falck.
- In 2000 Group 4, a security firm formed in the 1960s in Belgium, merged with Falck to form Group 4 Falck. Following the decision by the British Government in 1993 to enter into a contract with Group 4 to provide security for prisons, the company was embarrassed after a series of security blunders, including escaped prisoners.In 2002 Group 4 Falck went on to buy Wackenhut. In 2003 Group 4 Falck signed a Detention Services Contract with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (Australia) Under this contract Group 4 Falck took over direct control of Australia's refugee detention centres from Australasian Correctional Management, owned by its subsidiary Wackenhut, which had run them since 1998. In 2004 Group 4 Falckmerged with Securicor, a security firm founded in 1935 in London, to form G4S.
G45 may or may not be assured of winning the policing tender. That remains to be seen.Their track record is not good:
- In October 2010, three G4S-guards heavily restrained and held down 46-year old Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga on departing British Airways flight 77, at Heathrow Airport. Security guards kept him restrained in his seat as he began shouting and seeking to resist his deportation. Police and paramedics were called when Mubenga lost consciousness. The aircraft, which had been due to lift off, then returned to the terminal, Mubenga was pronounced dead later that evening at Hillingdon hospital. Passengers reported hearing cries of 'don't do this' and 'they are trying to kill me'. Scotland Yard's homicide unit is investigating after the death became categorized as "unexplained". Three private security guards, contracted to escort deportees for the Home Office, were released on bail, after having been interviewed about the incident.
Whilst such incidents
are not unknown following police handling it hardly instils confidence in G45, yet we seem happy to continue to use them. The company in fact has gone from strength to strength world wide. Interestingly the company is a contractor in the UK Government's 'Welfare to Work' scheme which has been receiving such bad press in recent weeks.
Reports of fraud at the company running the scheme
plus the news that the unemployed were being forced into this work in order to receive their benefits, and nothing more, does not bode well.
It does however partly explain the current governments plans on privatisation of the UK police. The pieces of the jigsaw are all starting to fit together. The government may claim that the private security firms will have limited powers but remember once in place that can and will, IMHO, soon be changed.
Welfare for work was begun under the last Labour government but of course this government has tweaked it to suit its own ends.
We also need to seriously consider who will be making the money from such changes to our policing? Former head of UK counter terrorism John Yates resigned after allegations made through the NotW phone hacking scandal and police corruption investigation. He is now working to reform the police force in Bahrain
. A lucrative post one imagines?
Whilst the changes to policing in the UK may bring short term financial gains they could unleash more problems than they solve. Finding out who will be making money out of these changes will prove challenging but worthwhile. If the changes go ahead we shall take a look at the company who wins the tender. Should make for interesting reading.Related reading here