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Met Deputy Commissioner 'genuinely doesn't know' if Airwave replacement will ever work


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Concern huge costs will be passed on to police.

Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey

Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey

Date - 8th October 2018
By - JJ Hutber- Police Oracle
5 Comments5 Comments}


One of the senior leaders in the Metropolitan Police says police chiefs’ confidence in the long-delayed radio network is waning.

The Emergency Services Network (ESN) was supposed to take over from Airwave in 2017 and complete in 2019.

But a Home Office announcement last month revealed Airwave may be online until at least the end of 2022.   

Emergency services will be free to test and choose which ESN products they want as they become available instead of waiting for the entire network to be implemented, the Home Office said.

MPS Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey, who is expected to retire later this year, said he was anxious about the extra costs the delays will generate for police forces at a meeting of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee.

“We need a radio system to be able to operate in London,” he said.

“We are worried and concerned. This is one of those major programmes that has an impact on our budget but it also has a real operational impact in terms of what it does.

“It hits us in cost in a number of ways. Through the deputy mayor at the moment we’ve just approved replacement of existing handsets. The radios officers carry at the moment are reaching the end of their life.

“We had thought we were going to have a new system so we’ve had to start investing money already in replacing until we get to the new system.

“At some point we will have to twin run twin tracks. Realistically for us I suspect that’s somewhere beyond 2020 now in terms of time scales and clearly that will drive real cost into what we’re doing.”

He said the issue was at the top of the agenda at a Chief Constables’ Council meeting earlier this week.

DC Mackey says he is sceptical police can be spared from the extra costs which will come attached to the delays.

“If it just comes into the Home Office topslice yes it’s on a different budget line but our budget line goes down anyway.”

Although he said he could only speculate on what the true costs will total, he would expect the bill for running two systems simultaneously to come at a price of hundreds of millions of pounds. 

“The other issue which I think will only get proper visibility when we get settled on the settlement in December for 19/20, a lot of central savings across policing were built on when you get this new system you’ll get data, you’ll get this and you’ll be able to take savings out of your key budget lines.

“Of course with the delays that’s at least another two years before those sort of savings arise so all in all it’s an incredibly complicated picture.

“Delivery confidence is something we are pushing quite hard, to say we need much better delivery confidence and visibility.”

When asked whether ESN is ever going to work he responded: “I genuinely don’t know is the answer to that.”

He added: “We as a police service need our confidence raised in this. If someone keeps presenting a programme that keeps slipping more and more to the right your confidence is going to decrease more than if you came out at the start and said this is going to take five years.

“In an ideal world we’d be on another system by now.

“There are still some big unanswered questions. So things like will it work on the underground, on radio coverage.

“It’s very hard to be a phased implementation. You think of trying to manage the risks managing a proactive kidnap operation with firearms who are moving around south east England in and out of London and there’s an actual threat to life and the two radios don’t work.

“I don’t know how you’d begin to manage something like that.”

Deputy Mayor for policing and crime in London Sophie Linden said she is writing to the government to say the MPS must not pick up extra costs because of the delays.  

“At the minute the Home Secretary and ministers in relation to the spending review are indicating very strongly that they are very minded to look at more national projects and this will enable police forces to have more savings and that’s the way the sort of direction of travel of the spending review.

 “It fills me with real concern because they cannot deliver this and they’ve been trying for years.”  

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In the mean time officers will receive training in Morse Code, and Semaphore signalling. 😉 Farcical.

  • Haha 1
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It’s a public sector contract. Over budget and over due. Standard practice.

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It has become something of a joke in tech circles. Even the review about why they are behind schedule was late!

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3 hours ago, Beaker said:

It has become something of a joke in tech circles. Even the review about why they are behind schedule was late!

More because of what the HO was saying and the fact it was impossible. Replacing Airwave for the type of system they are suggesting is a huge undertaking and cutting edge - to the point where we only got the standards approved in 2017. The time it takes to build radios that are based on the standard and then the underlying network is just huge. 

If the HO was clear about it being expensive and having realistic time scales then it would be reasonable. The big bang switchover was also just a very bad idea to start with as well. I'm glad they've seen sense on that.

As for the thing about public sector IT being late and over budget, that's largely due to how they're planned and managed. Using the same methodology leads to the same results in the private sector, which is why they've moved on to more agile methods.

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