Attempts by North Wales Police (NWP) to rationalise IT spending have backfired after a project aimed at saving them money by moving towards a single supplier went seriously over-budget.
The police force hoped to save £700,000 per year by outsourcing multiple functions to a single (unnamed) IT contractor but wound up spending £853,000 more than it would have had to pay if it had stuck with its pre-existing system of multiple suppliers.
NWP chief finance officer Kate Jackson got a rough ride when she was grilled about the outsourcing deal by overseers on the North Wales police and crime panel this week.
The controversial handling of the forces computing services follows news that the cash-strapped force paid £560,000 for a mobile phone service that had never been used. The money for that contract, which started in 2013, was refunded. Whether the force will be able to claw back any of its spending on the outsourcing contract remains unclear.
”We chose our IT supplier on April 1 which was supposed to save us around £700,000 per annum,” Jackson told the police and crime panel meeting, the Daily Post reports. “Even after taking into account the well-publicised refund from the mobile phone provider, the IT and communications budget still shows a significant overspend.”
“We had expected some additional cost during the handover period but not on this scale,” she added.
Conwy councillor Julie Fallon pointedly asked Jackson how a change originally justified as a means to create savings had resulted in such a serious overspend.
The finance officer replied: ”It’s not a particular IT system; it’s the in-house IT department. We thought by bringing it all into one contract, rather than having seven or eight different contracts, it would save money. But the bills are coming in and they are not saving money and actually costing more,” the North Wales Chronicle reported.
“Discussions are going on with the contractor to see where the extra has come about and where we can get the money back,” she said, adding that the police force hoped to reduce overspend this year before fixing the situation in future years.
Police forces across the UK are under huge pressure to cut spending, with anti-terrorism budgets being the few items of spending approved for increase by central government. Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, branded the extra costs from the outsourcing deal by a North Wales Police as a worrying amount of waste, “particularly during a time when front-line police staff are facing job cuts”.
North Wales Police are due to lose 57 police community support officers over the next three years.
North Wales police commissioner Winston Roddick told the panel: ”We are planning on further cuts of £8.3 million over the next four years. We haven’t got any additional money.”
Commissioner Roddick has requested an internal investigation. ”I have instructed the force to look into this (IT) matter to find out why it is costing more than we were led to believe by the provider. The force is due to report back to me in the new year.” ®