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9 July 2012
Unite, Britain's biggest union, will step up its campaign against the privatisation of core West Midlands Police (WMP) services tomorrow (10 July) with ad vans driving up and down the West Midlands warning that "Selling Off Our Police is a Crime." (see notes to editors for time table)
The campaign is to raise awareness ahead of a crucial meeting at West Midlands Police headquarters this Thursday (12 July). At the meeting members of the West Midlands Police Authority will decide whether to fragment and privatise core police functions, including 999 call handling, crime investigation and forensics. The Ad vans will drive up and down the West Midlands for five days.
The campaign comes as WMP Chief Constable Chris Sims, attempts to privatise core police functions at break-neck speed, without proper public consultation and in the face of mounting concern.
Keith Vaz chairman of the powerful Home Affairs Select Committee, has branded the exercise, which has cost millions, an "expensive fishing expedition” and expressed concerns over the accountability of private companies taking over police work.
The advertising campaign will culminate with a rally at 11.00am on Thursday 12 July, organised by Unite outside the West Midlands police headquarters, Lloyd House, Colmore Circus, Queensway, Birmingham B4 6NQ.
Under guidance from the Home Office, both the West Midlands and Surrey police have advertised contracts worth £1.5 billion to private companies to run policing services in both forces.
Unite believes WMP is keeping the public 'in the dark' and refusing to provide the most basic answers to questions that the police staff have put to WMP.
A poll, commissioned by Unite the union, says that some 61per cent would be less likely to report a crime if they knew their personal information was being accessed by a third party. The union's survey also revealed that nearly 80 per cent of people polled did not realise their police services were up for sale, confirming fears that WMP was trying to rush through the plans.
Unite national officer, Peter Allenson said:
"We believe selling off West Midlands Police services to private companies, whose priority is to make profits, is a crime. That is the message we will be taking to the people of the West Midlands this week as members of the police authority prepare to make a crucial decision on the future of policing.
"Chief Constable Sims is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and push through privatisation at break-neck speed without a proper public consultation.
"When people hear that core police services could be privatised the majority oppose the plans. Privatisation has nothing to do with making our streets safer it has everything to do with profit.
“It is not about making the police force more efficient - it is about transferring our crucial public services to the private sector, which has a totally different ethos and set of priorities.”