Cambs police - last chance for G4S re-think

AT its meeting on October 1 Cambridgeshire Police Authority will continue to consider the proposal to transfer some police support services to G4S.

This is the company that just two weeks before the start of the Olympic Games admitted it would not be able to meet its contractual obligations to provide security to the games. The Government called in the army to meet the shortfall.

After the chief executive of G4S appeared recently before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that committee has recommended that, in addition to paying �50million compensation for its failure to supply sufficient security staff, it should also forgo its �57m management fee.

Furthermore, the Government should maintain a central register of high-risk companies that have failed in the delivery of public services, to inform future procurement decisions. There is a clear warning to public authorities that, as a result of the Government’s experience with G4S, despite assurances given as to service delivery at the time of letting a contract, there is a high risk with certain companies that they will not be met.

Support or back-office services that are being considered for G4S to provide include payroll services, payment of police officer pensions, and police officer recruitment.

These services are essential to the efficient operation of a police force and are normally under the control of the Chief Constable. If there is any failure to deliver these services under new contractual arrangements, the Chief Constable will not have the ability to call in the equivalent of the army, since he will have lost the staff who currently provide those services.

In addition to its failure to deliver on the most prestigious contract such a company could have won, G4S has recently announced a 60 per cent fall in its first half-year profits and a freezing of its dividend. The chief executive, if he retains his job, has much to do to regain trust in his company.

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The meeting on October 1 is scheduled to be the last of the police authority before an elected police and crime commissioner will replace it in November.

Since its inception in the 1990s through its decisions the police authority has made a major contribution to the way Cambridgeshire is policed today.

It seems unlikely that the fortunes of G4S will be any better in November than they are currently. Therefore a decision to act now on the warnings given by the Home Affairs Committee would be appropriate.