National Police ICT Company operational after four years of wrangling

The national Police ICT Company is operational and aims to save £465m a year – nearly four years after Theresa May proposed its creation

The national Police ICT Company is finally fully operational – nearly four years after home secretary Theresa May proposed its creation. The organisation has launched its website and confirmed its board of directors, and has started recruiting a chief executive.

The Police ICT Company – which aims to save police forces up to £465m a year through the central provision of national IT systems – has been on the drawing board since home secretary Theresa May announced plans to create a police-led ICT company to replace the former National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) in July 2011. After years of wrangling, the UK’s police and crime commissioners eventually approved the plan in February 2015.

Nick Alston, Essex Police and crime commissioner and chair of the Police ICT Company, said the aim now is to make the best use of technology to deliver efficient and effective policing in England and Wales.

“This is not about imposing a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather an agreed approach which will enable the efficient development of new systems, in particular ensuring the effective flow of information between forces,” said Alston.

“One of the company’s key tasks now is to appoint an individual with the right skills and experience who can provide leadership, drive innovation and grow the company into a significant national organisation.”

Home Office retains high-profile systems

The original intention was for the Police ICT Company to take ownership of all centralised systems used by forces across the country, but the Home Office decided to retain control of several of the most important services due to concerns over a lack of IT knowledge or resources to take responsibility for the most critical national IT applications. Insiders said a CIO was recruited by the Police ICT Company, but left after only a few weeks, after discovering the lack of structure or IT capability in the organisation.

Core systems – including 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 – are all staying in the Home Office for the time being.

Read more about the Police ICT Company

The Police ICT Company will take over managing 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.

Outsourced systems add complexity

Several major systems are outsourced to IT suppliers and many will require redevelopment in the coming years. The first public work of the Police ICT Company will be to host an industry briefing day on 8 April 2015, to discuss with suppliers the transfer of systems from the Home Office; and to look for opportunities to rationalise purchasing of commodity products used across police forces. The company hopes to appoint a commercial partner for this work by 17 April 2015.

A further objective for the new organisation is to introduce national standards for IT and data sharing. The company intends to use the Cabinet Office’s G-Cloud purchasing framework to support its aim.

“Open standards are critical to support the flow and exchange of information. Making standards open will have significant advantages. Many of the standards developed will not be unique to policing and will have applications across the public sector, including criminal justice,” said to the Police ICT Company website.

“The use and compliance of published standards will enable systems and services from a range of suppliers to interoperate, encouraging efficient and sustainable future development in a competitive market. The G-Cloud framework will support forces in future by providing shorter term contracts, thus enabling customers to move to those who offer value for money as both technology and standards continue to progress.”

Read more on Data quality management and governance

Data Center
Data Management