Police back-office outsourcing criticised by union

The leader of the union representing police back-office workers has criticised a Met Police plan to outsource back-office functions

The leader of the union representing police back-office workers has criticised a Met Police plan to outsource back-office functions to a public and private partnership, with fears over the processing of sensitive data going into private hands and even being offshored.

Public and Commercial Services (PCS) general secretary Mark Serwotka called for the plan that will see sensitive information processed by civilians to be scrapped.

The Met Police is outsourcing HR, payroll and procurement divisions, through a business process outsourcing deal with a joint venture between the government and French IT service provider Steria, known as Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL).

"We do not believe the often sensitive work done by civilian staff in the Met Police should be handed to a private company and these plans should be scrapped," said Sertwotka.

The PCS union said around 500 support staff are to be handed to a private firm that is already offshoring other public sector work.

Steria owns the majority of SSCL (75%) and the government the remainder following a £1bn deal in 2013.

The 10-year deal is part of the government’s Next Generation Shared Services (NGSS) programme. Through NGSS the government aims to save £600m per year in a plan the Cabinet Office has described as "ambitious".

In 2013, the PCS said it had grave concerns about the security of people's jobs and the threat that work will go overseas.

When SSCL was set up in November 2013, Steria said: “Shared Services Connected Ltd will be a UK tax-paying business that will contribute to growth and job creation in this country.

“SSCL will invest in technologies and skills to create UK centres of excellence which will not only improve levels of service, but will stimulate innovation, create high-value jobs and develop skills in the UK.”

At the same time, minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said it is key part of the Civil Service Reform plan to make government more unified.

“It makes sense for government departments, agencies and public bodies to share services and pool expertise,” he said. 

Steria has a track record running government shared services. The NHS Shared Business Service, which Steria has run for the Department of Health since 2005, uses an Oracle platform and a single set of processes to run the back offices of NHS trusts. 

This is often cited as a great example of a successful shared services scheme, which has seen money reinvested in the NHS. It promises trusts up to 30% cost savings and has even paid millions of pounds back to the NHS.

When the service was first set up, half the jobs – some 300 – were immediately offshored to Pune in India. This figure has grown as new business has been added. In July 2011, the last figure seen by Computer weekly it was up to 1,200.

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