G4S could help improve call waiting times and public satisfaction if it was put in charge of Northamptonshire Police’s control room, a spokesman for the company has said.
It was announced earlier this month that the private security contractor had been asked to carry out a “feasibility study” into how it could deliver call handing, despatch and contact management for Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Police forces.
The move was criticised by unions who feared the quality of service would be reduced and it would be less accountable to the public.
John Shaw, managing director of G4S public services, said the company had a successful track record of running the control room for Lincolnshire Police.
Since G4s took over three-and-a-half years ago, Mr Shaw said the public satisfaction with the service in Lincolnshire had increased by 10 per cent and the number of calls answered in less than 30 seconds had increased from 90 to 96 per cent.
He said: “In Lincolnshire we have invested in new technologies to make the staff more agile. We have introduced new work stations where staff can work as dispatcher and call handlers.”
Mr Shaw said G4S had also introduced new shift patterns which better suited the amount of calls the control room received. This would mean more people working on Friday and Saturday nights rather than on Sunday afternoons.
However, Mr Shaw said the new shift patterns would only be introduced to the contracts of new starters rather that existing staff.
In Lincolnshire, G4S has also introduced new roles and a new structure so employees have more career progression.
Mr Shaw said it would also be possible for the company to run one merged Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire control room or combine the three into two.
However, any final decision on this would have to be made by the force’s police and crime commissioners.
The G4S feasibility report is likely to be presented to the police and crime commissioners of three forces in December and then a decision will be made whether or not to go ahead with the plans in the New Year.
The Northamptonshire branch of UNISON has said it is opposed to the outsourcing of police roles as it says it “damages accountability”.
Lyndsay Smith, UNISON Branch Secretary, said: “The Chief Constable will no longer have any say or control over how the control room is run and the company will not be accountable to the public. They will only be accountable to their shareholders.
“The suggestion of moving a control room out of the county and potentially merging it with other forces is risky and unnecessary. This is supported by the fact that Police Scotland have stopped the merger of any further control rooms, following the death of two members of the public who lay undiscovered for days following a car accident. This is following a recommendation from HMICS, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.
Mrs Smith said local knowledge was extremely important when dealing with calls from distressed members of the public.
She said: “Many emergency calls come in where the person in distress doesn’t know where they are and it requires the local knowledge of the call handler to ask for landmarks, or ask what they can see, before help can be sent to them.
“Someone taking a call sitting in a different county, may not have this knowledge so vital seconds or minutes may be lost trying to find their location on a map.
“The consequences of this type of delay doesn’t bear thinking about, but it is a real possibility that it could happen. This type of call isn’t an exception. This happens on a daily basis.
Mrs Smith said the majority of staff in the control room were already working different shift patterns and trained as call handlers and dispatchers.
She said: “What G4S are suggesting they will do to “improve” the service is nothing new as we have already done it, so they are not innovative of clever ways to save money.
“Millions of pounds in savings have already been taken out of the control room in Northamptonshire, making it already lean and efficient, yet still able to be the best performing control room in the region, despite the other forces control rooms having larger budgets.
“It is impossible to see how G4S could possibly save the police any money and maintain the service that is provided.
“The Police and Crime Commissioner has instigated this scoping exercise and we believe that before any decisions are made, the public should be consulted and have a say on what happens to their police force.”