Private security workers could replace bobbies on the beat in West Yorkshire, one of the candidates vying to become the new chief of police has warned.
Mark Burns-Williamson, Labour’s nominee to become the first Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire in November, said cuts to the county force’s budget could see private firms taking on frontline policing.
Mr Burns-Williamson, the current chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority, told the YEP: “There is a place for private companies, particularly in back office roles like IT, but what we are talking about is potentially core policing functions – patrolling, neighbourhood policing – being given over.
“To me that is a core public service that should be provided by public servants, not by people working for a private company who are accountable to shareholders rather than the public.”
Police authorities will be replaced by PCCs when the public goes to the polls on November 15. Mr Burns-Williamson, a councillor in Wakefield, is facing opposition from Conservative candidate Geraldine Carter, a Calderdale councillor.
Mr Burns-Williamson said he was concerned West Yorkshire Police could be forced to turn to private firms as it strives to cut its budget by 22 per cent by 2015.
He said: “I have spoken to a lot of people who don’t want that line to be crossed. If I’m not elected as a police and crime commissioner I think there’s potential for it to happen. The government line is to encourage more ... private companies in policing.”
Jon Christopher, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said he was concerned decisions on which companies to use could be motivated by cost rather than standard of service. He also said he would be “extremely worried” by the power of arrest being handed to anyone other than sworn officers.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Our commitment to neighbourhood policing is well documented and we would be concerned at any suggestion to privatise the front line policing delivered to communities. There are no current plans to do so.”