G4S and other private companies have been asked to bid for contracts worth 1.5bn for services currently carried out by the police, including crime investigation and neighbourhood patrols.

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A report in today's Guardian newspaper says West Midlands and Surrey police have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to deliver a wide range of services.

Successful firms would have a wide range of responsibilities, including detaining suspects and responding to incidents. However, they would not be able to arrest suspects.

Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force does business. West Midlands police authority spokesman

In a briefing note sent to companies, all services that "can be legally delegated to the private sector" are potentially up for contract. Administrative roles are also set to be outsourced.

A West Midlands police authority spokesman told the Guardian: "Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business - improving the service provided to the public."

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the private sector already provided a service to police in the UK. "Many forces already use the private sector to run custody suites so that officers can be deployed elsewhere."

'Extremely dangerous road'

But Ben Priestly, Unison's national officer for police and justice, warned: "Bringing the private sector into policing is a dangerous experiment with local safety and taxpayers’ money."

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "This is an extremely dangerous road to take. The priority of private companies within policing will be profit and not people.

The priority of private companies within policing will be profit and not people. Simon Reed, Police Federation

He continued: "This plan suggests that core policing roles such as police patrols and the power to detain… will be undertaken by private business employees. This would have catastrophic consequences for the high level of service the public rightly expect and currently receive."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that although she had not yet seen the detailed proposals, she was "very worried" that cutbacks meant the police were coming under pressure to cross the line into core public policing activity.

"The possibility of including the management of high-risk individuals, patrolling public places or pursuing criminal investigations in large private-sector contracts, rather than core professional policing, raises very serious concerns," she said.

Earlier this month Channel 4 News reported that the Lincolnshire police authority was near to completing a £200m contract which would see G4S building and running a police station in the county.

In 2011 West Midlands police contracted out some of its anti-terror operations to the same company.

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