Privatisation Scheme 'On Hold'

A police authority has suspended its part in a privatisation scheme following the failure of plans by security firm G4S to provide enough guards for the Olympics.

A meeting of Surrey Police Authority today decided to suspend its business partnering programme, a joint initiative with its West Midlands counterpart and the Home Office, a spokesman said.

"The decision was to suspend the business partnering programme, and the authority is minded to withdraw, subject to a paper that is going to come to a public meeting on September 6,'' he said.

The move comes within hours of the news that an extra 3,500 military personnel will be deployed during the Olympics because of concerns that G4S will not be able to provide the required number of guards for all the venues within the timescales available.

The subject of business partnering happened to be on the agenda of one of the authority's regular public meetings.

The West Midlands and Surrey forces had drawn up a shortlist of six groups that have been bidding to take over "middle and back office functions'', including G4S.

Ben Priestley, national officer of Unison, said: "We are pleased that Surrey Police has seen the light and dropped its plans to privatise vital local services. The sell-off plans are deeply unpopular with the public, and would make people feel less safe. Today police staff sent bosses at West Midlands Police Authority a strong message that we want the sell off plans to be dropped.

"The problems that G4S has had delivering on the Olympics contract exposes one of the many pitfalls of hiving off services to the private sector. The Government may claim that risk is transferred, but in reality it is not.

"When things go wrong, the public sector has to come to the rescue and the taxpayer ends up paying twice.''