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Police ICT Company CEO Martin Wyke on austerity, transformation and plans to save millions

Charlotte Jee | Sept. 3, 2015
It's hard not to feel frustrated by the police ICT landscape.

It's hard not to feel frustrated by the police ICT landscape.

There are 43 police forces in England and Wales, each individually buying near-identical technology at a cost of over £1 billion every year.

Much of that is just to maintain out-of-date legacy systems - money that could be much better spend elsewhere during a time of austerity across the public sector.

There have been many attempts to turn the situation around, the latest being the Police ICT Company, which was set up in 2012 and finally became operational this year.

A CEO was appointed to run the new venture in June: Martin Wyke, a CIO with three decades of experience at TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Debenhams.

Wyke will have to overcome a history of failed attempts to set up a national approach to police ICT.

It is far from a new idea: the company will have many of the same functions as the Police Information Technology Organisation, set up in the 1970s then abolished in 2007, and the National Policing Improvement Agency, wound down in 2012.

However all of these organisations "failed to drive a national approach to policing," Police ICT Company Chairman Nick Alston told ComputerworldUK earlier this year.

Despite this difficult landscape, Wyke is optimistic two months into the new job, his first in the public sector. After a long private sector career, he says he wanted to take a job where he could make a big difference."

"However, I came into this with my eyes wide open. I recognise there have been some ups and downs and it is a very difficult landscape," he says.

'Success breeds success'

Wyke says the five-strong team has already saved police forces over half a million and aim to have saved up to £3 million by the end of the financial year. However he hopes to start making much bigger, recurring savings from next year.

The company has estimated it could save between £150 million and £465 million a year and improve policing by encouraging collaboration, integration between systems and helping forces to drive better deals with suppliers.

However Wyke downplays the importance of these figures, saying he is focused on getting the company to pay for itself for the time being.

"I'd like us to be able to cover our costs this year. But I'm confident by the end of the year we'll have identified significantly larger savings, which go straight back to the forces," he says.

"Success breeds success. So I want to start small, under-promise and over-deliver. We won't promise to change the world. Previous incarnations have failed, but this time it is owned by the police themselves, there's no mandation, and strong ministerial support from Theresa May," he adds.


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