G4S, the company at the centre of the Olympic security fiasco, has started to recruit staff to carry out criminal investigations for a police force, with duties that include house-to-house inquiries, giving evidence in court and undertaking “sensitive high-profile cases under limited supervision”.
The news comes as two Cabinet ministers said the G4S failings at the Olympics had caused them to think again about how private contractors should be used.
The G4S adverts for “civilian investigators” to work on long-term “open-ended” contracts based in local investigation units throughout the Warwickshire police force first appeared last Wednesday on the G4S Policing Solutions website. They appear to push new boundaries in the debate over police privatisation during which ministers have said that “core policing” tasks will not be put out to tender.
G4S boss Nick Buckles last month accepted when questioned by MPs that the company’s failure to produce enough staff for the Olympics had been a “humiliating shambles”. On Tuesday cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and Jeremy Hunt said that the outcome of the £284m G4S Olympic security contract had caused them both to “think again” about the default use of private contractors.
The Police Federation said it hoped the home secretary, Theresa May, would “take credence of this move” to recruit in Warwickshire and ensure that domestic security was undertaken by public servants who were fully trained and accountable for their actions.
Some dissent exists but what matters will be actions not mere words:
G4S’s failure to provide enough Olympic security guards has taught ministers that private firms are unsuited to providing many public services, the Defence Secretary has admitted.
In an interview with The Independent, Philip Hammond said the G4S saga had caused him to rethink his scepticism towards the public sector – and made him appreciate there were some things that only state organisations like the Army could be relied upon to do.
Mr Hammond’s frank admission of the limits of the private sector, from a minister currently overseeing the largest overhaul of Britain’s armed forces in a generation, will be welcomed by senior military commanders. Some have privately expressed concerns Mr Hammond is intent on pushing through a programme of creeping privatisation as cuts force troops to rely increasingly on commercial contractors.
But Mr Hammond said G4S’s failure to live up to its obligations to provide enough Olympic security guards had taught him an important lesson. “I came into the MoD with a prejudice that we have to look at the way the private sector does things to know how we should do things in Government,” he said. “But the story of G4S and the military rescue is quite informative.
“I’m learning that the application of the lean commercial model does have relevance in areas of the MoD but, equally, you can’t look at a warship and say, ‘How can I bring a lean management model to this?’ – because it’s doing different things with different levels of resilience that are not generally required in the private sector.”