G4S loses outsourcing deal with police forces

A plan to combine the back office functions of four police forces in a shared services contract with G4S Security Services has been rejected by three out of the four police forces involved.

Under the proposal, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire were to adopt the services of G4S alongside Lincolnshire which already employs the security company.

The plan was rejected by the newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for those  forces. They say they now plan to collaborate to cut costs.

This will come as a bitter blow to G4S which has seen its reputation suffer following the widely publicised failure to provide sufficient security officers to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

It’s understood that the three PCCs will meet to formalise their decision at a later date.

Editor’s view:

There are two ways of looking at this contract loss: either G4S deserved to lose the contract because of its shambolic delivery of the Olympics contract or it’s an example of inexperienced and ambitious Police and Crime Commissioners making a purely political decision. Or possibly both.

There’s little doubt that G4S’s reputation has suffered as a result of its failure during the Olympics.

However, it’s difficult to see the relationship between the Olympics and a contract to provide back office services to the police. The first is a massive one-time event which G4S had relatively little experience in and failed to resource in a timely manner. The second is an on-going services contract, not dissimilar to the thousands of other contracts that G4S delivers successfully around the world every day.

There will be a bitter salesman within G4S today asking whether the company reputation hasn’t been damaged beyond repair.

But I also suspect that the PCCs may have made the decision with one eye on public opinion – to the detriment of the public good. If the decision was a matter of political expediency, will they come to regret it in future?

If they plan to increase collaboration between the forces, who is going to organise it and how are they going to manage it? Such projects have an unfortunate way of turning rancorous and degenerating into political infighting. The advantage of handing a project of this sort to a third party is it allows you to deflect the heat of disagreement toward your supplier, rather than having a go at each other.

The supplier – in this case it would have been G4S but it could have been another contractor – will also have experience of running similar projects elsewhere and will have a ready supply of experienced managers to bring in either to troubleshoot a problem or manage things on a long term basis.

It will also be difficult for the police forces to achieve the efficiency cuts and savings that G4S would have been looking for because of the vested interests of the workforce.

It will be interesting to hear what justifications the PCCs put forth when they make their official announcement but it’s difficult to see how they can justify this on the basis of costs and benefits.

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