Surrey Police’s privatisation plans have been suspended after a lengthy debate.

Surrey Police Authority decided to suspend its Business Partnering Programme (BPP) at a meeting on Thursday, July 12.

The authority, responsible for overseeing the police force, indicated it was minded to withdraw altogether from the programme, subject to a more detailed options paper due for presentation on September 6.

Members at Thursday’s meeting raised concerns about the impending arrival of police and crime commissioners and whether it would be right to continue to spend money on a programme with an increasingly uncertain future.

Members also agreed it was vital to continue to look for ways to become more efficient, mindful of the budget gap facing Surrey Police going forward.

Peter Williams, chairman of Surrey Police Authority, said: “There have been accusations in the media that BPP amounts to the privatisation of policing, which we have always maintained is simply not the case.

“Nevertheless, this has been and still is a key theme of some of those seeking election as PCCs, as well as others who are opposed to the very idea in principle.

“Potential police and crime commissioner candidates are now actively campaigning to put a stop to BPP and the authority agreed it would not be prudent to continue to invest Surrey taxpayers’ money in a programme that seems unlikely to be brought to a fruitful conclusion.

“We have learned a great deal from the time and money invested in the programme thus far, but we have always maintained that we would be prepared to exit the process if it became apparent that significant benefits to Surrey Police, and thus to the Surrey public, were unlikely to be achieved.

“Members agreed today that it is right that we should suspend our involvement in the programme at this time, and that we should look to withdraw altogether following a more detail assessment of our options in September.”

Labour's police and crime commissioner Robert Evans said: “I’ve not met anyone in Surrey yet who thinks it a good idea to have parts of our police service run for profit by a private company.

"No one has told me they would feel safer with a private security firm patrolling our streets instead of the local bobby.

“If a Surrey resident rings 999, they want to know there’s a trained police officer at the other end - not someone in a private call centre that could be miles away - even in another country.”