There has been a lot in the media over the weekend about Surrey and West Midlands police asking private security firms to bid for contracts to run services currently carried out by police officers, such as investigating crime and patrolling neighbourhoods. It seems that everyone has a view on this and I suppose that I am no different!
There are many police tasks that do not need to be carried out by warranted officers and many forces employ their own support staff to undertake them. Surrey and West Midlands are exploring all options and trying to ascertain just where the limits for non-police bodies should be in providing elements of this important public service.
Many forces and authorities have already outsourced some of their back office functions. We have decided not to do that but, working in collaboration with Essex, we are sharing our support services, to deliver better value for money and to drive down costs. Those savings are being used to manage the 20 per cent cut in Home Office grants over the next few years and are also financing frontline functions. This work is managed by the two forces and police authorities, on behalf of local people.
Speaking personally, policing has to provide value for money for taxpayers, but let's not forget that there is more to policing than delivering the cheapest service. There is an ethical issue here, in that we have policing by consent in this country and I am not at all sure that the public would accept for example core policing duties being given to private security companies.
New demands and the impact of budget cuts mean that policing must continue to change, but those changes will only succeed if they have the trust and confidence of communities. So we'll need to watch this debate very closely. We need to be vigilant and carefully assess the potential impact of the marketisation agenda on policing.
Onto other matters and I was delighted to host our Safer Kent Awards event on Friday night at Leeds Castle. The event was a fantastic example of community work and partnership working at its very best and - amazingly in today's increasingly avaricious world- actually done for no reward, just the personal satisfaction of doing a good job for us.
About 100 guests attended the event and listened to some incredible stories of what's going on around the county, getting a real insight into the hard work and dedication of the wider policing family.
Because we are really lucky here in Kent to have such excellent public servants, from the police community support officers, police officers, special constables, NHW , young citizens groups, volunteers, community wardens, all of whom do such an excellent job in the public safety arena. Together they put themselves at the heart of our communities, to protect life and property, to keep us safe and well.
This was the Authority's sixth Safer Kent Awards and, sadly, it was our last but I have to say a big thank you to our incredibly generous sponsors - BT, Kier Construction, Kent Peoples Trust, and Southern Water. Without their continued goodwill and support the event would not have been possible.
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