Mobile Technology in Policing - Public Accounts Committee Contents

3  Central procurement and the new policing landscape

13.  The 2010 Spending Review will reduce police forces' central funding by around £1.3 billion (£2 billion in real terms) by 2014-15. The Agency estimates that total spending on police Information Communication Technology (ICT) is around £1.5 billion per year, some 10% of the total annual spending on policing. Each of the 43 forces in England and Wales has developed its own business processes and local IT systems. As a result, there are nearly 2,000 different systems in use across the Police Service. The Mobile Information Programme has added to this level of diversity. The Department has an Information Systems Improvement Strategy which aims to deliver police ICT in a more consistent and affordable manner. The Strategy seeks to drive all forces to use common systems to improve service quality and reduce costs. [33]

14.  The Agency set up central framework contracts in order to achieve economies of scale and to achieve a convergence of mobile devices and back office systems. However, the Agency decided not to mandate the use of these contracts by all forces, and only five forces chose to use them. The remaining forces made their own decisions on which suppliers to use.[34] Those forces who used mobile technology to achieve business improvements and cash savings told us that negotiating directly with suppliers often resulted in greater flexibility and business benefits.[35] The Department told us that, through the Agency's current catalogue of framework contracts, it mandates forces to procure certain commodity items centrally, including body armour and off-the-shelf software. The high performing forces also told us that they felt the need for the Department to do more in defining a clear set of business rules which enable forces to make robust value for money procurement decisions.[36]

15.  The Department has decided to change the way in which ICT is procured by forces. The Agency will be shut down later in 2012 and in its place the Department intends to create a public company currently called "NewCo". The Department told us that this new company will provide forces and Police and Crime Commissioners with the capacity to procure ICT collectively based on voluntary cooperation. The Department expects that this will maximise economies of scale while also responding to local force requirements.[37]

16.  The Department told us that NewCo will not be a centrally funded body but will be owned and run by those police forces which voluntarily buy-in to the organisation. The Department will also be an "owner" of the company (as NewCo. will be responsible for certain national systems such as the Police National Computer).[38] The Department told us that NewCo will probably start with a smaller number of forces and build up over time. NewCo will rely on forces and Commissioners agreeing to own and use the company in order to succeed.[39]

17.  Experiences across government have shown that there are value for money risks attached both to mandating procurement centrally and to relying on collective voluntary procurement. With NewCo there are particular risks arising from commercial suppliers circumventing NewCo and dealing directly with individual forces. The Department told us that it accepts these risks but feels that its approach of providing a limited amount of start-up funding aligned with the current constraints on police force budgets, and NewCo's strong leadership and commercial capability, will attract more and more forces and Police & Crime Commissioners to join the organisation.[40] The Department told us that it intends to publish an overview of how NewCo will work, which will include an estimate of the value of contracts it expects to be managed and the return on investment NewCo is expected to achieve.[41]

33   C&AG's Report Para 1.2, 1.4, 3.15 Back

34   C&AG's Report Para 16, 3.2 Back

35   Q 12 Back

36   Q 3, 12 Back

37   Q 64 Back

38   Q 67, 74 Back

39   Q 69-74 Back

40   Q 127 Back

41   Q 66, 168 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 30 May 2012