West Midlands Police Authority met yesterday in the wake of the G4S Olympic debacle leading the newspaper headlines, and the consequences being debated in Parliament.
Cllr. Bob Jones, the Labour candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), arrived outside Lloyd House presenting himself to the TV cameras in front of the mass lobby against the privatisation led by UNISON and Unite.
At the beginning of the meeting, members of the public repeatedly challenged Bishop Webley, Chair of the Police Authority, over the exclusion of public questions relating to the human rights records of the shortlisted companies for the BPP.
The meeting considered the belated business proposal for the Business Partnering for Policing. The advocates for the privatisation focused on the need to update the IT systems of West Midlands Police with private investment.
Cllr. Bob Jones claimed the BPP “is already a car crash, let’s not drive a juggernaut into it!” In the debate, Jones acknowledged concerns about the bidders and said that if he became PCC he would not accept any companies on the shortlist who were in breach of international law.
Independent member Zahid Nawaz warned that public perception of the privatisation could not be ignored.
The meeting voted to accept the business case for the BPP by 8 votes with 7 members abstaining; this included the Labour Group and some independent members. The Labour Group abstained on the basis that the decision should be left to the incoming PCC.
News of Surrey Police Authorities’ decision to suspend its involvement in the BPP arrived by Blackberry; the Surrey meeting took place earlier on Thursday morning. This led to Cllr. Jones proposing a motion to defer consideration of the procurement timetable, due to confusion about the uncertainty and the implications of Surrey’s decision for the partnership arrangement.
The Police Authority voted by 8 votes to 7 ‘not make any further Gateway decisions’.
In a statement released following the meeting, West Midlands Police said:
“The West Midlands Police Authority decided to defer any decision of the selection of partners until the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner in November.
“Work will continue on the West Midlands programme so the new PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) has a range of options when he or she takes office.”
A spokesperson from West Midlands against Policing for Profit commented:
“This is a victory for tactical manoeuvring not a principled defeat of privatisation. The meeting decided that preparation for the procurement process would continue. Although the Tory and Labour candidates for the PCC have declared themselves opposed to the BPP programme they have not declared themselves opposed to privatisation.”
This piece relates to our recently published article Citizens fighting £1.5 billion police privatisation highlight security companies' human rights violations.
This piece was originally published here, and has been re-posted with the kind permission of the author. Jo Jones is an activist in the group 'West Midlands against Policing for Profit' and has been involved with a number of campaigns against the corporate takeover of public services.