Q: How many Metropolitan Police officers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. They pay someone else to do it at £100 a time.
Sadly, this is not a joke.
According to this report in The Telegraph, the Metropolitan Police (‘the Met’) has agreed to pay Interserve PLC, a maintenance firm which describes itself as ‘one of the world’s foremost support services and construction companies’ up to £100 every time a lightbulb needs replacing ‘urgently’.
Lightbulbs cost anywhere from £1.98 upwards according to the B&Q website, although it is likely that a large company like Interserve gets them far cheaper.
Their contract with the Met has been in place since 1999. They recently extended the contract for the southern half of the Metropolitan Police’s estate for another 7 years. The total cost of the contract is £300 million. For that, the Police Force gets various services as shown on the Interserve website, including building facilities management.
Metropolitan Police austerity?
The entire cost of the contract is met by the taxpayer.
This comes at a time of ‘austerity’ when the coalition government has cut police funding. As a result, in London alone up to 65 police stations are to be closed, and there has been a reduction in the total number of police officers by 16,000, meaning that there are now fewer police than at any time since September 2002.
With this in mind, it is astounding to me that senior management at the Metropolitan Police approved a deal which pays a company £100 to change a lightbulb. Whose bright idea was that?
As the Solicitor Director of a law firm, one of my many responsibilities is keeping a close eye on finances. I have obligations to our ‘stakeholders’ (clients, staff, bank, suppliers, and regulator) to ensure that we remain solvent and well-managed. I can only imagine what would happen if, like the Metropolitan Police’s management, I agreed a 7 year contract to pay an outside company £100 each time we needed to change a lightbulb.
I suspect our many stakeholders would think I was joking. But for taxpayers and those who have lost their jobs in the Metropolitan Police during the austerity cuts, contracts like this are no laughing matter.
Kevin Donoghue is the Solicitor Director at Donoghue Solicitors, a law firm which specialises in accident claims and actions against the police. Contact him for expert legal advice on 0151 933 1474 or via his firm’s website, www.donoghue-solicitors.co.uk.
Photo by Kevin Galens.