Police ICT Company still not operating two years after launch

The Police ICT Company (PICT) is still not up and running despite being launched two years ago, the Home Office admitted today.

PICT is a police-led, privatised company set up by the Home Office in July 2012 to help police forces procure ICT services more cost-effectively. The Home Office eventually plans to transfer ownership of PICT to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

However the process has been delayed as, two years since PICT was launched, PCCs are yet to tell the Home Office how they want the company to be scoped and how it will operate.

A Home Office spokesperson told ComputerworldUK: “PICT has been launched but we’re working with PCCs to see how they best want it to be run.

“The Home Secretary really wanted them to take ownership of it. The framework is in place, we just need the PCCs to tell us what they want from it.”

She added: “The Home Office remains committed to using PICT to deliver better IT. We’re continuing to work with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to achieve that.”

The Major Projects Authority’s redacted all but a brief description of PICT in its latest annual report, saying that further data about the project is ‘exempt under section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act’. Section 43 is usually reserved for commercially sensitive topics.

Research funding

The news emerged as the Home Office announced winning bids for the £50 million ‘Police Innovation Fund’, which will pay for 85 projects across forces in England and Wales. The fund aims to improve policing through innovation and new technology.

One of the successful bids was £291,500 by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) for the ‘Police IT Company’.

A Home Offices spokesperson explained that this is separate from, but related to, PICT.

The spokesperson said: “This was a bid by MOPAC on behalf of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners. It isn’t for PICT per se but could be in future.”

She explained: “The money will be used to conduct a detailed review of what goes on in the 43 different forces in terms of IT systems to try and get a better picture of how they’re working at the moment to see if there’s an opportunity to deliver better value for money.”

Police Innovation Fund

Projects awarded fundinginclude £431,000 for Nottinghamshire and Lancashire Police to cut DNA processing time from four or five days to two hours. The Met Police has won £113,000 to develop a new spray which will be able to quickly identify body fluids at crime scenes.

Many of the schemes will be used to help the police coordinate and work more closely with other emergency bodies such as fire and rescue services and ambulance services.

For example, West Mercia won £1.6 million to set up a combined contact and control centre across blue light services. Surrey Police will use £735,000 to develop a shared IT platform with fire and rescue and Hampshire was awarded £466,000 to integrate services between the council, fire and rescue and constabulary.

Each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales will receive a portion of the funding. Some of them have won money for several projects or joint bids between two or more forces.

The ‘Police Innovation Fund’ is in its first full year of operation and up to £50 million will be allocated every 12 months from now on.

In January this year, the Home Office made a separate ‘precursor’ fund of £20 million available to Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales. The 65 successful bids included funding for nine forces to deploy mobile data equipment so officers can take statements and update crime records without having to return to the station.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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