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Outsourcing to 'play a part' in reducing £1bn police IT bill

Police ICT company chief admits 'big elephant' gobble won't be done in one

All UK police forces use Tetra

More outsourcing will "play a part" in reducing the eye-wateringly expensive £1bn-a-year police IT bill, according to the new chief exec of the just-established Police ICT Company, Martin Wyke.

Wyke became head of the Police ICT company in June, after the body was established four years after it was first proposed. Previously he was CIO at TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Littlewoods Shop Direct and Debenhams.

The Police ICT Company was originally hoped to cut coppers' IT costs by £465m a year. However, the body has since said it is aiming for savings of "at least £150m" per year.

Wyke said he hopes to reduce IT spend by 10 per cent before 2020. He intends to start tackling procurement in order to make a "seven-figure" saving this year and cover the body's costs of £1.2m, mostly derived from forces each chipping in £25,000.

This will include plans to start consolidating licensing contracts, mainly with Oracle and Microsoft.

The comments on outsourcing follow the Metropolitan Police's 10-year deal with Steria and the Cabinet Office which is intended to shave £100m off the IT bill over the next decade by shedding hundreds of jobs, as the IT delivery moves out of the capital.

Wyke declined to comment on whether the Met's arrangement was a good idea, given the controversy of lengthy outsourcing contracts, but acknowledged 10 years was a long time.

He said: "Outsourcing has a role to play. I've undergone both outsourcing and in-sourcing in the past and in my experience outsourcing is not necessarily cheaper, you need to look at what you are outsourcing. But I would be surprised if, overall, it were not part of the answer."

"There are certain functions that I would be happy to see outsourced, and others that would be better to keep in-house," he added.

Areas that might be suitable for outsourcing include infrastructure hosting, and responsibility for the large data centre estate. This could feasibly be reduced from 43 to four, he said.

Wyke acknowledged that most of the substantial savings would come from people, and tackling the issue of role duplications across the 43 forces. Consolidation of services and the 2,000 separate IT systems across forces will generate the most savings, he said.

However, Wyke admitted the body's lack of mandate to force change was a challenge. In July, a Public Accounts Committee hearing on financial sustainability in the police forces heard that any effort to consolidate the 43 systems would have to be "bottom up".

"It's a big elephant to eat and we are not going to do it in one bite," said Wyke. ®

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