Blackberrys for police scheme fails to cut costs, say MPs

A police officer using a mobile phone
Image caption MPs said the programme was far from delivering the savings it was supposed to

A £71m government scheme to cut the cost of paperwork by giving police forces smartphones and other devices has made "woeful" savings, say MPs.

A Public Accounts Committee report found the programme had yielded just £600,000 out of an expected £125m.

It also found that while 41,000 Blackberry phones were distributed to police and support staff, some forces were left without any devices at all.

The Home Office said the reforms would give police "more time on the beat".

But MPs described the operation, provided with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), as "haphazard".

'Guidance needed'

Committee chairwoman, Margaret Hodge, said that while "some forces" had used the devices to improve efficiency, "most have not".

In some forces, the devices "actually led officers to spend more time in the station", she said.

Mrs Hodge also said more effort had been focused on providing the new technology, rather than looking at whether the scheme effective.

"The programme was supposed to contribute £125m to cashable savings by the police service.

"So far it has managed a woeful £600,000, less than 1% of the public money spent on the scheme."

The Home Office is developing a company that will manage IT purchased for police services.

Mrs Hodge insisted on the need for clear guidance on what was purchased and why.

A Home Office spokesman said: "This scheme was set up by the previous government and its implementation by some police forces was disappointing.

"We are doing things differently, with a new police ICT company to deliver value for money and elected police and crime commissioners to make sure forces get the technology that works for them.

He underlined that the reforms would "ensure efficiency and innovation so that the police can spend more time on the beat tackling crime".

The Mobile Information Programme project - launched in 2008 - was scrapped in 2010.

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