Home Office U-turn sees core police IT staying in Whitehall

The Home Office has made a U-turn over plans for a new Police ICT Company by retaining control of several of the most important IT systems

The Home Office has made a U-turn over plans for a new Police ICT Company by retaining control of several of the most important computer systems used by police forces across the UK.

Only last week, the UK’s police and crime commissioners approved the creation of the Police ICT Company, which was originally set up by home secretary Teresa May in 2012 to run all central IT systems previously operated by the now-defunct National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

But Computer Weekly has learned that, in a reversal of the original plans, several core police IT systems will continue to be run by the Home Office, under the management of the department’s new CTO, Sarah Wilkinson.

The critical systems affected are: the Police National Computer, Police National Database, the national fingerprint and biometrics database Ident1, the National DNA Database, and the National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Datacentre.

The Police ICT Company will take over management of a number of central IT systems including the Holmes 2 investigations system that has been operated by Unisys for the last 13 years, but many of the others were described as “mostly small” by insiders.

Sources familiar with police IT plans said the Police ICT Company does not yet have sufficient IT knowledge or resources to take responsibility for the most critical national IT applications. Insiders said that a CIO was recruited by the Police ICT Company, but that IT chief left after only a few weeks after discovering the lack of structure or IT capability in the organisation.

Several of the major systems are outsourced to IT suppliers and many will require redevelopment in the coming years.

The Police ICT Company aims to save police forces up to £465m a year through the central provision of national IT systems, but has been on the drawing board for nearly four years, since home secretary May announced the plan to replace the NPIA in July 2011.

The company was formally established a year later by the Association of Police Authorities and the Home Office, with the intention of handing control to police and crime commissioners following elections in November 2012. But early proposals were rejected, and it subsequently took more than two years of wrangling and discussion before the plan was finalised with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, which is now responsible for its funding and operation.

The lack of technology being used by police in the UK is costing taxpayers up to £221m, according to a March 2014 study by O2 and the Centre for Economic and Business Research. UK police are wasting time and money while on the beat because they cannot access systems and records outside of police stations, it said.

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