Private firms could save Britain’s police 1 bln pounds a year-G4S

English police

LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Britain’s police forces, facing millions of pounds of budget cuts, could save up to 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) a year by buying services like finance and IT from the private sector, outsourcing firm G4S said on Thursday.

G4S, which already runs services for police forces from answering emergency calls to buildings maintenance, said around a quarter of Britain’s police forces could buy services from the company.

But G4S, whose reputation was hammered by a failure to deliver security at the London 2012 Olympics and by overcharging on a contract to tag criminals the following year, faces lingering mistrust from the public and opposition from unions.

A squeeze on police funding may however open an opportunity to win fresh business, with finance minister George Osborne’s Autumn Statement next week set to deliver multi-billion pound cuts to activities such as policing.

G4S, which signed a 200 million pound contract with Lincolnshire Police in eastern England three years ago, said it had saved the force 6 million pounds a year and other forces in England and Wales could make similar savings.

The company has been asked by three other police forces in the east of England to produce a feasibility study to show how it could manage their emergency control rooms.

John Shaw, G4S’s managing director for public services, said the Lincolnshire framework could be repeated across all 43 police forces, potentially saving 1 billion pounds a year.

“It’s costing less for a better service that the public thinks is better and obviously is improved over where it was before,” Shaw told Reuters. “So there’s kind of an obvious outcome to that, which is clearly you would want to do more.” ($1 = 0.6554 pounds) (Editing by David Holmes)