England

Private firms express interest in policing role

Two police forces have received more than 260 responses from private companies interested in carrying out some policing services.

The West Midlands and Surrey forces have invited bids from firms on behalf of other England and Wales forces.

The contracts on elements of policing could be worth about £1.5bn nationally over seven years.

Critics say policing should not be for profit and Unison and Unite have called the plans a "dangerous experiment".

The two forces said they had received 264 responses after inviting firms to bid for contracts, which they have previously described as "middle and back office functions".

'Crown jewels'

Surrey Police Chief Constable Lynne Owens said one practical benefit of bringing in private firms could be a system which allowed victims to track their cases in a similar way to how people check on the delivery status of letters or parcels.

She added: "At the moment, the police service has huge quantities of technology, but it isn't quality technology.

"If you report a crime as a victim and you want to track your crime through the process, in the same way you could a parcel, you can't do that through either of the computer systems the force currently uses."

But Ms Owens said: "We will not give our Crown jewels to a private sector company.

"One of the things that we are very clear about is accountability and responsibility will stay with us."

She said she would never "consider the private sector being part of neighbourhood policing, beat officers, investigation".

The Home Office previously said private companies would not be able to arrest suspects or be solely responsible for investigating crime as part of the plans.

West Midlands Police Authority faces budget cuts of £125m over the next four years.

Surrey Police Authority needs to make savings of £28m by 2015.

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