Ed Miliband’s call this morning for far greater scrutiny of G4S’s involvement in policing is hugely welcome news for us in Lincoln.
In February of this year, Lincolnshire Police Authority signed a £200 million contract with G4S. It’s of 10 years duration with an optional 15 year extension. As part of the contract, G4S apparently have an option to sell the existing (large, visible and accessible) city centre police station (presumably making a fair bit from it) and to build their own police station (intermittently referred to just as a custody suite) 3 or 4 miles out of the city centre.
There is very little information being made available to residents about these proposals; nor has there been any kind of public consultation. Transparency, there is not.
So, will there be a replacement for the central police station as/when/if it’s sold? The Police Authority have said they plan to use a ‘shop-front’ on the High Street. In May of this year, the Chief Inspector told a local journalist: [on the 'shop-front'] “There’s no firm decisions for it but it’s not intended to be a police station. It would be somewhere that’s more of a facility that’s open for certain hours of the day.”
In my book, this falls somewhat short of reassuring.
Public concern about the potential sale of our central station, its replacement with an out-of-town facility and our officers working from a ‘shop-front’ is, as you’d expect, widespread. I’ve been getting regular emails and calls about it for weeks and I’m asked questions about it on the doorstep.
Now factor in a few more things. First, our Force is being reduced in size. Second, Lincs Police was one of three forces highlighted in the recent HMIC Report as at risk of not being able to provide a “sufficiently efficient or effective service” in the future (following the implementation of its programme of cuts).
Third, this is G4S we’re talking about – the company that recently had to ‘in-source’ work to our police and armed forces when they manifestly failed to deliver on a very high-value contract of massive national importance. This shouldn’t just give rise to the fear of non or under-delivery on a contract – the fact that G4S still feel they deserve their £57 million “management fee” shows they don’t quite comprehend (or want to comprehend) the scale of their failure. Nor does it fill me with confidence that they understand the concept of ‘value for money’.
These are concerning times for policing nationally and particularly so in Lincoln. The silence from our Tory MP is deafening – as far as I know, he’s said nothing about the G4S Olympic fiasco, let alone the potential sale of our police station. Instead, it’s been left to Lincoln Labour Councillors (City and County) to stand up for their communities – they have, for example, called a public meeting this evening to discuss all of these issues.
No doubt the controversy around the potential sale of our police station will continue over the summer but I speak on behalf of many in Lincoln in saying that I’m glad Ed Miliband made the speech he did this morning.
Lucy Rigby is the Labour PPC for Lincoln