Private firms could own and profit from police IT agency

Private companies will be prohibited only initially from taking ownership of a planned police IT agency.

Private sector companies will be prohibited only initially from taking ownership of a planned police IT agency and could in future profit from police IT systems, according to Metropolitan Police CIO Ailsa Beaton.

Speaking about her work implementing government plans for a private company to manage police IT after it dissolves the National Policing Improvement Agency in 2012, Beaton said discussions so far had not ruled out the possibility that private companies would take shares and make a profit from police IT at a later date.

"I'm not expecting at its inception for there to be any private sector ownership of this organisation," said Beaton in an interview with Computer Weekly.

But private sector ownership has not been ruled out at a later date. "It will be down to the owners to decide,” she said.

"But who owns the organisation [initially] and what type of company it is all part of a project that the Home Office is running. We have a programme board which is looking at a business case for setting up the company. But this business case has not yet been written.”

It is five months since home secretary Teresa May announced the plans at the summer conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers and a year since Lord Gordon Wasserman, Home Office Advisor, was due make the plans available to parliament.

Beaton said decisions had been delayed while the Home Office recruited consultants to help form the "newco", previously dubbed the "govco". Their procurement had delayed progress since May announced the newco on 4 July. Beaton's former employer PA Consulting, accountants Grant Thornton, and an unnamed legal firm have been contracted to advise the Home Office.

The programme board has considered possible business models for the newco and whether it should be allowed to make a profit.

"There's been discussion about that...surpluses could either be returned to the owners or reinvested," said Beaton.

Owners are initially likely to be police authorities. Rules prevented police commissioners from taking ownership. Wasserman told Computer Weekly in July that IT suppliers might take shares in the new organisation.

Teresa May was due to give evidence about the new police IT agency to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 8 November but the hearing agenda was changed after her recent intervention in operational issues at the UK Border Agency.

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