Police chiefs have rejected draft Home Office plans for a private company to manage police ICT because it was unworkable under police force rules.
Plans remain on the drawing board a year after the coalition announced it would dissolve the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and place its ICT functions into a private company. Home Office has also yet to supply chiefs with any detailed proposal for the plan. The Home Office has pledged to form the "newco" by Spring 2012.
Ailsa Beaton, head of ICT at the Metropolitan Police and representative on the newco's interim programme board for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said she had informed the Home Office its proposals for a newco would be unworkable.
Home Office formulated the proposals only after October when it appointed legal advisers to the newco scheme and subsequently suggested it should either be a public limited company or a company limited by guarantee. It had originally intended to present the plans to Parliament this time last year.
"If it were set up as a normal limited company then it would need to charge us VAT, which we don't pay at the moment. So something that was being set up to reduce our costs would increase our costs by 20%," Beaton told Computer Weekly.
"Obviously, we want something that will work for policing. We are being consulted as stakeholders. I have expressed a view that we can't have a situation where the construct of a new company adds 20 per cent to our bills, because we can't afford it. We need to come up with a construct that doesn't put us in a disadvantageous tax position," she said.
Beaton said the Home Office had also proposed the newco would be a company limited by guarantee. But that would require chief constables to own the company, which was forbidden under police rules. The programme board had therefore been unable to find a form the newco could take. It was also waiting to receive a business case for the plan, which was still being written by the Home Office.
Theresa May, Home Secretary, yesterday repeated in a written statement to Parliament that the newco would be owned by police authorities. It is intended the newco will manage national procurement frameworks for police ICT and take strategic responsibility for police systems operated by outsourcers like Logica's contract to run the Police National Database.
The Home Office has not decided what to do with police ICT assets such as the Police National Computer, which is currently operated by the NPIA from its data centre in Hendon. One option on the table is that it will be outsourced.
Chief Constable Nick Gargan, NPIA CEO, echoed Theresa May's statement yesterday, writing that they had made "good progress" on the reforms.
A Home Office Spokesperson said: “A programme has been established and is on track to set up the company in the spring, as announced by the Home Secretary in July 2011.
“No company structure or legal form has been rejected and a range of options are being considered. The precise composition will be determined over the coming months, taking full account of relevant rules and legislation.”