back to article How much do UK cops pay for Microsoft licences? £30 a head or £137? Both

Coppers are wasting millions on negotiated software licences, with some forces paying more than four times more than other constabularies of a similar size for Oracle and Microsoft licences, The Register can reveal. According to a Freedom of Information response from 10 police forces of differing sizes, some constabularies …

  1. Peter Clarke 1

    Making a Living

    Hey, how's a guy to make an honest(?) living when people start comparing prices and asking for transparency for what they're getting for their money???

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Making a Living

      How indeed. Someone will be asking for transparency and accountability from the government next.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Making a Living

      Classic salesperson technique:

      Person A asks for quote, gets a decent quote, agree's to quote and pays money.

      Person B asks for quote, messes around and wastes everyones time, 9 months later comes back in a blind panic as they have days before the entire thing collapses on them - gets quoted full price and then some because they've been so damn annoying, they have no choice but to accept.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Making a Living


        Person C meets salesperson on the golf course, funny handshakes exchanged and vastly overpriced deal agreed.

  2. Efros


    Left hand I'd like to introduce you to Right hand, you may be surprised by how much you have in common.

  3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    What exactly is an "Oracle licence" or a "Microsoft licence"? They aren't exactly single-product companies. Isn't this a bit like complaining that your "TV subscription" costs 2x mine, and ignoring that you've signed up for sports and film channels that I haven't?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Also what value do the various forces get out of their spend?

      If Trumptonshire Police Service is spending £50 a head and getting £60 value from that, but Greater Chigley Constabulary is paying £100 and getting £120 value then who pays more for what they get?

      1. Evil Graham

        Have an upvote purely for the Trumpton and Chigley references.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Wilseus

    Why pay fees at all?

    What I want to know is why are government departments spending taxpayers' money on these products at all?

    Why are they not using software with no licence fees, such as a government standardised version of Linux instead of Windows, Postgre SQL instead of Oracle etc?

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      a government standardised version of Linux

      Much though I love Linux, the idea of a distro originated by the government sounds like sheer hell.

      1. Wilseus

        Re: Why pay fees at all?

        "Much though I love Linux, the idea of a distro originated by the government sounds like sheer hell."

        Perhaps, but I'm sure you get the general gist of what I am saying!

        I was of course making the naive assumption that they would put someone in charge of that who knows what they are doing, and would them alone to actually do their job!

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Why pay fees at all?

          well , you'd think the "suck it up and buy MS due to horrendous dev costs" would apply to small businesses not large ones. The UK gov is a pretty big "business" . The NHS alone is the 3rd biggest employer in the world.

          1. graeme leggett

            Re: Why pay fees at all?

            The NHS is not really a single employer. GPs (and dentists) are partnerships contracted to deliver NHS services. Hospitals and other large entities are trusts contracted to deliver the remaining services required.

        2. lawndart

          Re: Why pay fees at all?

          This month we will be rolling out the latest version of GovLinux.

          Hopefully you will all appreciate the advances in usability and functionality that Malignant Morons has over the previous three versions, Junket Jackdaws, Kamikaze Kakistocracy and Loathsome Leeches.

    2. Sixtysix

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      Very tough question to answer, and a lot of the response is uncomfortable...

      Databases first: All Government hage a HUGE library of legacy applications. THis means that any migration to a new technology stack would require an extensive period of parallel running and full redevelopment of the legacy applications and processes. This is stunningly expenive, ridiculously hard to resource, and prone to catastrophic failure, as it is an all or nothing solution. This also ignores the productivity bonuses that using Oracle toolsets can give: we estimate our programmers are four times (seriously - we tested it) using Oracle ApEx than pure Java for front end: this also means that future development on Open Source will, until someone releases a similarly comprehensive IDE toolset, be four times as expensive.

      As for Microsoft, sadly the compatibility issue strikes again: not just for Office (the recent insistence on external compatibility with ODF is a start) but for the other applications that Councils, Agencies, NDPBs and Departments use like confetti: don't run on Linux, and nothing similar available (yet).

      Moving to FOSS based desktop is in my sights, but never seems to get appreciably closer.


    3. Hellcat

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      Sometimes, just sometimes, buying in a licence to use an already created and supported product is cheaper than having to hire in (and be at the support mercy of) your own internal staff. I might not like that myself being as it will probably result in my needing to find new work; but if I was paying the bills as we are indirectly as tax payers; I'd want the best value. If that means buying in rather than internal development then so be it. The real question should be why there are 42 separate contracts - it's not hard to do and would save a fortune.

    4. dogged

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      Honestly? The actual non-fanboy of any description answer? The genuine reason?

      Oracle is probably peer-pressure. It's like nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Oracle is, to an exec, "reassuringly expensive".

      Microsoft? Probably because they were cheapest, and no, I'm not kidding. If an individual police force went to Red Hat and asked for everything they currently got from MS including the level of support it would a) probably not be possible and b) cost about three times as much. And that's for "free" software.

      I'm going to get downvoted to oblivion for this. Still true though.

      1. kryptylomese

        Re: Why pay fees at all?

        Redhat support is second to none and they even support Microsoft Windows. You need fewer Linux guys to support an estate than you do Windows guys because it works (Linux is big enough to run the most powerful computers in the world so a desktop use barely tickles it).

        I know some of you are going to mention that some software doesn't run on Linux so I will address that in this post too. Linux can run most software designed for Windows nowadays including Photoshop. MS Office is not very well supported but honestly, it is unreliable software and the Linux equivalents are not unreliable.

        Good government organisations and good companies are switching to Linux for desktop use. You can argue all you want be you would be wrong to do so.

        I really hope that Microsoft create a Linux based version of Windows and open source their propitiatory code - It looks like they are heading to cloud based services for Windows so they would not care about the actual desktop operating system once they have done that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why pay fees at all?

          "designed for Windows nowadays including Photoshop"

          Photoshop not actually that important to most office workers. Unless you are suggesting the police are doctoring cctv images to "get a result"

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Why pay fees at all?

            Here is a trip i had into libre office last week. I needed to install libre office onto 90 PCs. Libre office has an msi so gpo installation is easy peasy. Made my transform in orca and away i went.

            Msi failed to install. No error. Installing manually yielded no errors but no installation. Made no difference with transforms (vm test machine reaet between tries of course). Open office installed manually as gpo rollout of open office is a job of frustration.

            Had the apprentice go back through versions and try older ones. Turned out an old version of 4 worked and after uninstall new 5 would work.

            Image is pretty clean and lightweight (it has office 2013 on it) but the screwaround was a pain. No errors anywhere to suggest why it wasnt working (msi log file simply returned a success, no errors at all but no files actually copied)

            I do try open source but sometimes it is hardly cut and shut. (I havent tried to configure network templates based on OUs yet or dictionary lockdowns for exam accounts etc). I am yet to find an alternative to outlook that works (i suppose OWA would count)

            Serif has cheap enough software and pageplus/photoplus are good enough for the publisher addicts and decent enough to teach with. is a staple lightweight basic editor. MySQL is cheaper than MSsql and just as useful for smaller firms. But im still using exchange for email.

      2. c:\boot.ini

        Re: Why pay fees at all?


        >If an individual police force went to Red Hat and asked for everything they currently got from MS including the level of support it would a) probably not be possible and b) cost about three times as much.

        Why are you spewing this bs again, I already explained to you that you are TOTALLY mistaken.

        The price for RedHat support looks more expensive on paper, however, you have no separate APP licenses, no Exchange server licenses, not MS SQL server licenses, no CALS.

        Same for the workstations (clients), the support prices include an Office suite, MS Office costs more per client than RedHat with support.

        Then, you have Oracle Linux support, which is cheaper than RedHat, who'd da thunk - Oracle Linux is a RedHat fork.

        Suse support Licenses are cheaper than RedHat as well .... Ubuntu is even cheaper than Suse. I am sure that a big enterprise like NHS or UK Police force could get heavy volume discounts on top of all this.

        Then you have a myriad of smaller vendors selling Linux or FreeBSD support.

        1. dogged

          Re: Why pay fees at all?

          > The price for RedHat support looks more expensive on paper, however, you have no separate APP licenses, no Exchange server licenses, not MS SQL server licenses, no CALS.

          Also no familiarity so you're looking at training (is that included in the price? No? What a surprise) and big holes in your software portfolio that you'll have to pay a developer to fill or simply go without, which I'm sure won't cost you productivity in any way at all.

          It. Costs. More.

          Get over it.

        2. Rob Daglish

          Re: Why pay fees at all?

          As other people have already said - there is no "UK Police Force" - there's 43 in England, PSNI, Police Scotland and I'm not sure about Wales.

          There isn't a single "NHS" to buy things. In my county, there is the Clinical Commissioning Group (admin types who buy in services), 2 Acute hospital trusts (1 in the north of the county, one in the south), and shedloads of individual GP practices. All of whom negotiate and purchase for themselves only. Some practices may have 2 or 3 GPs, some practices may have 4 or 5 sites each with 4 or 5 GPs. Most use one of three different systems, so no volume here.

          Ditto Education - 350 odd schools, mostly working on their own - OK, they get good deals from MS, but it's not like there is any joined up thinking here!

          Whilst it would be nice to have someone negotiate the volume discounts, at the moment, there are too many egos and too much chance of a turfwar for it to happen.

    5. briesmith

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      Because they are not free. Want proof? Ask anyone who works in sales for these open source suppliers what their sales target is. Oh, and the software's shit.

    6. Just Enough

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      Same reason anyone buys these products. Because they believe them worth it.

      If there was an all encompassing reason to use Linux and PostgreSQL, then Microsoft and Oracle wouldn't sell anything to anyone, ever. Why pay money for something you can have for free?

      Yet somehow they manage.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why pay fees at all?

        "reasurringly expensive" does indeed sum it up

        I guess its all down to a niggling feeling that businesses (especially public ones) are just throwing cash at problems because its easier.

        This is why all purchases for businesses cost much more than the same item bought for a domestic home - sure it may be slightly sturdier , and the warranty might be a grade above domestic , but you pay, and pay heavily.

        I think the upper management prefer simplicity , security , and continuity over profits. Perhaps understandably. Even though their whole raeson d'etre is to get profits up - they want a smooth safe ride to do it.

        Hence outsourcing, and temp contractors where payroll pay the agency that "found" the contractor more per week than the contractor - even though the troops on the ground knew who they wanted already. Convenience.

        1. chris 17 Bronze badge

          Re: Why pay fees at all?


          Massive companies / organisations tend to care about meeting an obligation regardless of cost.

          Smaller companies care more about the cost. I've never seen an outsource deal that is cheaper, often it's about transferring cost and therefore profit overseas where tax is cheaper.

          When it comes to government it's due to egos, prestige of managing large budgets and justifying a wage and after a few years down the line not understanding the real true cost providing a service.

          It is genuinely cheaper to outsource the specified requirements, it's the add ons required to actually delver the service that cost more, the add ons not specified in the original contract because those signing the contract had no clue they where required.

    7. Col_Panek

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      If only there was a standardised Linux based in the UK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: standardised Linux based in the UK.

        "If only there was a standardised Linux based in the UK."

        I don't know today's situation but there certainly used to be a UK-originated POSIX.1-compliant Linux.

        Lasermoon [1]. RIP.

        Unfortunately the 'leading' industry players seem to have abandoned the idea of standards conformance unless it's their (proprietary?) standards. Odd.


    8. chris 17 Bronze badge

      Re: Why pay fees at all?

      Anyone with a clue knows that free software isn't free.

      Free means paying someone's time to implement & support with no guarantee or warranty. That critical system on free software will not stand up to scrutiny. Running fedora server and get hacked, who do you call to fix it fedora or pay red hat, suddenly free is costing you and is therefore not free.

      Are you going to run That critical off the shelf system that's got support when used with oracle or ms database on MySQL? who will support it fails?

      Free is great when it's backed by paid support despite how much you pay the consultant to install it.

      If it's important you need assurance, which is what you get from paid for licenses.

      1. Fair Play

        Re: Why pay fees at all?

        Fail. Not "free" as in "no cost"...


        adjective, freer, freest.

        1. enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery:

        2. pertaining to or reserved for those who enjoy personal liberty:

        3. existing under, characterized by, or possessing civil and political liberties that are, as a rule, constitutionally guaranteed by representative government:

        4. enjoying political autonomy, as a people or country not under foreign rule; independent.

        5. exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc., as a person or one's will, thought, choice, action, etc.; independent; unrestricted:

        6. able to do something at will; at liberty:


        7. clear of obstructions or obstacles, as a road or corridor:

  5. BearishTendencies

    Or they are just buying different stuff

    How many more times are El Reg going to publish this nonsense where apples and oranges are compared?

    For a start, the police are covered by the Microsoft/CCS MOU so there is only one price for all of that. And then what will change is how they are buying it to suit local needs and when. Some might be 'getting their Microsoft free;. When they are on 'holiday' and sweating a perpetual asset.

    1. Sixtysix

      Re: Or they are just buying different stuff

      Indeed - my first though was one's near total Oracle, the other has more SQL*Server.

      No where near enough information for that headline

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Or they are just buying different stuff

        Perhaps one force has no redundancy and no cluster failover. The other force might have hot swapover clusters, who knows.

  6. Keith 12

    Off-topic - but...

    It's off topic but it's been bothering me for a while and I've yet to see it addressed anywhere. Comments appreciated.

    If, as is well reported, Windows 10 is effectively keylogging typed data, which Microsoft, ahem, assures us is not attributable to a particular user. What happens if the typed data itself contains confidential information of a criminal/medical/private nature and includes names, addresses, telephone numbers etc. Does this not mean that most state/governmental/council etc. organisations should be looking for an alternative to Windows 10?

    1. Sixtysix

      Re: Off-topic - but...

      I have no plans to go to Windows 10 AT ALL - but telemetry is just the START of the reasons why not. l'll be sticking with Windows 7 on Desktop and Laptop until the end of extende support.

      Sadly tablets are another story, and some will sneak by...

  7. Phil W

    I really don't understand why constabularies are negotiating their prices individually, other public sector organisations such as Universities have consortiums either regionally or nationally to negotiate pricing and account deals with suppliers.

    Surely there's no reason this shouldn't be the case for the Police and any other public sector bodies. I'm sure the cost of staffing such a consortium would be less than the savings they would achieve.

    1. Sixtysix

      For the most part they don't... but that would'n make a good news story.

      There is always some spend off-framework, but that's rarely the issue - compare start and end dates, and versions being used, and the support models, and the true picture would *start* to emerge.

      The headline bills tell you nothing of interest.

  8. Rumournz

    RE: making a living

    Corporations have to eat too...

    so do the self-entitled sociopaths that treat wall street as an ATM

    so companies like Microsoft and and Oracle have to screw their hostages err customers as hard as possible. At some point their big customers will realise that they can save wads of cash (even factoring in migration) and walk away - even down here in the colonies i've seen this - they hand over the cash and don't ask questions (of themselves let alone Microsoft et al)

    the other aggravating factor esp in the public sector is if the departments don't spend the cash, they get their budgets cut..

  9. chivo243 Silver badge

    It's 42

    The answer to everything?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has been going on for years

    Goverments buy a PC from say Crapita with windows installed and then Crapita image it with Select version of same OS so they can charge them twice for the OS.

    These sites rarely have roaming applications because their external server teams are clueless IMHO and cause more problems than they solve and so everything is imaged by hand complete with a generic application set and usually the wrong drivers.

    Typically on the same site external project management are not IT competent and so every project has to be billed as so many days, no plan or schedule just it will take this long if all goes well. Again typically the project assessor and the implementer are usually not the same people and so the projects are rarely the period quoted. "sorry [ insert BS excuse] it is going to take longer and cost more" .

    Win Win for external IT support especially when the customer is forced to buy everything from them, if they didnt know this then they still have to buy the Select licenses and then machine suffers lots of unexplained problems and problems with support as the seller wont touch it and the external support blame the seller. "naughty naughty you forgot we own you"

    In my experience the best IT support is in house where they have no incentive to cheat you, sadly as these are government sites they are not allowed the pay the going rate and rarely keep anyone good for long.

    So taxpayers pay more and get less service in exchange but thats okay because remember the IT company funded the Goverment party in power. Bread, circuses anyone?

    1. Sixtysix

      Re: This has been going on for years

      > Goverments buy a PC from say Crapita with windows installed and then Crapita image it with

      > Select version of same OS so they can charge them twice for the OS.

      Not quite as laid out: buying a PC without O/S is impossible - last downgrade I managed was to a NDOS version that saved me a total of less than £8 per PC (in bulk), but the re-image still has to happen because of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement Licence terms, not the integrator making a buck.

      > These sites rarely have roaming applications because their external server teams are

      > clueless IMHO and cause more problems than they solve and so everything is imaged

      > by hand complete with a generic application set and usually the wrong drivers.

      A little harsh, but a single Gold Image is the support nirvana, and compromises WILL be accepted it it works. Roaming applications depend a LOT on the end to end architecture, and wioth my users on the end of VPN over ADSL, I'm not about to get "creative" without really slowing the poor old users (did I really just say that) down to an unacceptable crawl!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This has been going on for years

        > buying a PC without O/S is impossible

        for you as an individual, yes. For a bulk buyer account it's not only possible, there are even discounts for doing so.

        I currently work for nPower. We buy without OS.

        1. Chemist

          Re: This has been going on for years

          "for you as an individual, yes"

          No, there are several retailers that will supply without OS, charging extra for Windows, in UK. I build my own desktops but I bought my most recent laptop (i7,8GB ) without.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: buying an OS-less PC

            "there are several retailers that will supply without OS, charging extra for Windows, in UK."

            There are indeed.

            And how many of these suppliers are outfits that the Acquisition Daleks in large organisations will allow onto their Approved Suppliers list?

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: buying an OS-less PC


              They used to do N-series desktops that came without an OS installed.

              I'm not sure if they still do, but if you're buying 50, they will offer it!

              However, as a supplier will obviously only offer hardware support if you do that, they can easily scare management away.

              1. Danny 14 Silver badge

                Re: buying an OS-less PC

                When buying in bulk not only can we buy without OS they tend to come with our image preloaded. Thats simply paet of the quotation process. Ask for quotes for quotation breakdown to see if you are being ripped off etc

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The French police pay nothing to Microsoft as they use Linux.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it really is about time the issue of the stupiddddddddd number of forces in the UK is addressed. When budgets are tight right across government why do we have this total waste of 42 lots of, IT, HR, Uniforms, Cars, etc Down here in Cornwall we have just had an announcement that D&C police might lose 500 officers (of course this is that total waste of time and money Crime Officers attempt to stir things up) but reduce the number of forces and there is plenty of money to be saved! We have 3 forces just in the South West + Mod + transport police + Civil Nuclear Constabulary + probably some more as well!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No they are reducing the effectiveness of the police intentionally

      The idea is to bring in private police forces for the affluent so they can keep the people they are starving away from them and under control.

      These private law enforcement companies will of course have all the powers of the current bobby without any oversite or come back and so they will end up fully of sadists who act in the name of whomever pays them. Oh, of course they will need firearms to do their job of protecting you but I am sure this won't excellate things so you wont be safe outside of your getto.

      This is what comes with wanting servants, it means that other people in your country are so poor they will do anything to survive and will hate you for your affluence.

      However don't let me change your mind the problem will sort itself out in no time at all albeit in bloodshed and all this because you cannot be bothered to clean up after yourself, aren't you clever

    2. graeme leggett

      Transport and Civil nuclear have different "jurisdictions" and modus operandi.

      The CNC are all armed and paid for by the energy companies running the nuclear facilities.

      The Transport Police are mostly paid for by the train companies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        still don't need 42 forces

        1. graeme leggett

          The British are 1) suspicious of the idea of a national police force, 2) proud of their local (county) areas 3) doubt that centralised control resulting from mergers would still provide adequate local representation despite performance/cost benefits.

          That said the Scots have a national force. I haven't heard that it's been a failure.

          1. auburnman

            Perhaps that's because you haven't seen the Scottish news. There have been a few issues at least, the head honcho of Police Scotland has actually taken early retirement 'completely unrelated' to the state of the force.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            not saying it should be a national force. But taking the SW as an example you don't need Devon&Cornwall, Avon&Somerset and Dorset you could quite easily have a force to cover the whole of the SW (would be still way smaller than the Met) And you wouldn't have the fiasco like the poor sod who came off his bike and need assistance the other day and waited as the four police forces he was on the boarders of argued the toss on who should attend!

            1. auburnman

              I'm not saying centralising couldn't possibly have savings on the IT & general organisation side of things, but I worry 'rationalising' HQ's is just a cover for downsizing until the nearest bobby is at times 50 miles away from smaller population areas.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Yeah, about the poor sod who came off his bike and the police argued the toss...

              At least one of them turned up after they realised 90 minutes later that he was still there. And took him to hospital. Unlike the sodding ambulance service, whose job you might expect that to be.

              (It's on my local news patch, and one of the senior coppers appeared on a bulletin, apologising. Unlike, again, anyone from the ambulance service.)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Unlike the sodding ambulance service

                The emergency services response (or lack of) in that case was inexcusable, but you need to be somewhat careful before throwing stones at services other than your favourite.

                E.g. in July, Police Scotland took from Sunday to Wednesday to respond to multiple reports of a crashed car. It had two people in it. At least one of them survived the crash and was still alive when the services eventually turned up (link below).

                I'm sure in all of these cases, lessons will be learned and call handling systems improved and... except I've heard it all before, and any lessons that may eventually be learned will be lost in the next top-down reorganisation in another couple of years, just like they are learned and lost in the private sector when changes of senior management happen.


          3. briesmith

            No fair, cops are getting it in the neck

            That's because Scotland's population is roughly half that of London's where there's been a single force since Harold marched down from somewhere near Chelsea.

    3. Adam 52 Silver badge

      It's not like that, there are shared purchasing and operating arrangements for things like cars and IT so that a single IT department, for example, operates for two or three forces.

      Which goes some way to explain why there's almost zero helicopter cover these days and a drastic reduction in Traffic.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge


        It's camera "enforcement" that's killed Traffic.

        The beancounters can clearly see that a set of ANPR cameras can "enforce" many kinds of traffic offence so replaced most of the traffic cops with cameras.

        Never mind that a traffic cop can do something on the scene, or spot a driver doing something silly or illegal before they actually crash.

  13. Eddy42

    Apples and Oranges - understatement

    It really is impossible to compare these - it sounds like someone has stuck a load of Freedom of Information requests in, hoping to generate a good story - this is not good journalism and btw if The Reg is in the habit of doing this they are costing the tax payer money by forcing civil servants to run around collating data for spurious FOI requests!

    Just suppose that one force uses a ton of third party programs (i.e. doesn't use SharePoint, Exchange, MS SQL etc) - they probably license their estate by buying individual MS Windows licenses and nothing more so it seems cheap but it doesn't take into account all of the other products. Another (comparable) force might get a huge cost saving by using MS enterprise licenses, and moving all of their disparate systems onto one Microsoft agreement.

    A better comparison would be how much do comparable forces spend on ALL software licenses - but then headcount of staff isn't comparable - e.g. North Yorkshire force will cover a vast rural area and licensing costs for systems to get around this will mean you can't compare to central London.

    I would suggest taking this entire article with a gigantic piece of unlicensed salt!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apples and Oranges - understatement

      You wish, I have been around and the problem with licenses is everywhere I have been.

      The windows using police officers are rarely IT experts and so get in third party support who of course wish to make the maximum amount of money possible. Then there is all the kit on non-police sites like local goverment etc these are typically under that site's support contract and again this is not a regional issue

      If all police IT was centralised it would provide untold benfits in costs and security however that would require action at the country level rather than regional. Personally I would give each Bobby who wanted computer access a terminal and a shared printer and keep everything centrally with internal support for everything except the local hardware. Everything secured and once implemented cheaper to maintain.

      1. Eddy42

        Re: Apples and Oranges - understatement

        If all IT was centralised then...

        Yes, but Microsoft is not going to let that happen (unless you all go cloud where they can lock you into reliance on their systems).

        You can always say everything should be centralised, but then what about the regional differences, where do you stop (maybe we should centralise all of Europe's police systems).

        On one hand people say they want decentralisation so local gov makes local decisions and on the other hand people want the economies of scale - you can very rarely have both!

        Microsoft like having lots of different agreements - it means they can make it all up - I don't actually think Microsoft know how their licensing works, let alone the rest of us - it's designed that way - and Oracle is even worse!

        And for those playing the linux is free argument it doesn't always hold true - even if you go entirely free software you still have to integrate with systems that are proprietary and the cost of doing so is usually prohibitive if not impossible. If you put Linux on every desktop and use Citrix in the datacentre Microsoft will still stiff you for terminal service licenses, in which case you might as well put Windows on the desktop and save on supporting multiple OSs.

        My point was that this really is apples and oranges until you know the full facts, which we don't, and neither do The Reg reporters!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apples and Oranges - understatement

          RE: Microsoft wont let them

          Then go with some other OS/ DB that will, lets be clear what these computers will be doing, office applications, some DB and GIS and linking to secure systems virtually all of which are availible under linux/unix for example right now.

          If anything is missing from the new OS then given that this would become the only buyer in the UK of said police software then the vendors better move quick or someone will take their seat.

          A lot of bobbies aren't computer experts but having everyone on the same systems allows for peer to peer style knowledge flow that and the move away from insecure system like windows and onto something that doesnt change radically every 5 minutes would be worth providing technical support for a year or so until everyone is comfortable with the new system.

          Lets be frank and admit that a lot of the bespoke software the police are using is expensive rubbish that must have been knocked up in less than a day. Collecting a lot of these disperate systems from each region into one tailored app would allow for better security, sharing and oversight.

          Basically the problem here is the same as any other personal and bulk purchase of software/hardware, if you buy small you pay more per item.

          Buy big and dictate exactly what you want and get the job done for the whole country in one go and for much less than the price of staying with a MS based solution, which I might add is already going to change.

          MS and oracle are not in the business of crime prevention, every app the police use is a compromise wobbling upon an inherantly insecure base however another OS with a bespoke software suit tailored for the national police needs would add more security, stability and allow better oversight and easier data sharing.

          The Police need to stop being punters and I can't believe I am saying this but form up so they can throw their weight around. Money saved here from not following the MS line to win10 and associated infrastructure along with centralisation will keep our bobbies in work for everyone's benefit.

  14. Commswonk Silver badge

    Transport and Civil nuclear have different "jurisdictions" and modus operandi.

    The CNC are all armed and paid for by the energy companies running the nuclear facilities.

    The Transport Police are mostly paid for by the train companies.

    And unsurprisingly the MoD Police are paid by the MOD. When necessary forces do provide Mutual Aid, both on a formalised basis and more localised and ad hoc basis as circumstances dictate. Trying to combine the "departmental" forces together does not sound like a good idea.

    That said the Scots have a national force. I haven't heard that it's been a failure.

    It has not been an outstanding success either; there have been one or two serious glitches, one of which involved no - one attending a single vehicle RTI for 2 or 3 days, resulting in the death of one person for sure and possibly a second. Bit of a rumpus on that one. I think the "jury is still out", overall.

    Earlier in this thread someone mentioned Windows 10; I suspect that CESG will still be crawling all over it* getting rid of anything that hints at a security compromise. It may take some time...

    *Readers may wish to insert "for months or years" at this point.

    1. David Neil

      Another balls up

      Someone at a control room forgot to pass on the sighting of a missing pensioner in Clydebank and her body was eventually found a week later when they went back through CCTV footage and asked the public for help

  15. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The use of "commercial confidentiality"

    should be made invalid as an excuse for not responding to FOI. Anyone competing for public money should be beaten with a baseball bat with 'free market' written on it in 6" nails.

  16. J J Carter Silver badge

    Groundhog day in Police IT

    A grand plan to reduce the number of Police IT systems and procure national licences, it it?

    Wait, that sounds familiar! Ah, yes from Dec 2008 we read -

    The aim of ISIS (Information Systems Improvement Strategy) is to make a significant difference to the day-to-day experience of frontline officers as they deliver services to the public.

    - create a roadmap for convergence – building on force and national plans and proposing new investment where necessary;

    - promote better procurement – to drive down costs in police IT and strengthening the market for police IS;

  17. Weebl_79

    Even better

    This implies separate procurement and IT policies, processes and staff across all the 40-odd constabularies? Nice efficiency for our current times of austerity.

  18. Commswonk Silver badge

    Oh! No! There! Isn't!

    Anonymous Coward wrote ...reduce the number of forces and there is plenty of money to be saved

    I suspect that you are a politician, or at least a wannabe. It's the sort of remark that trips easily off the tongue and yet it simply doesn't work that easily.

    I don't necessarily disagree that having 42 separate forces is "wrong", or that having fewer of them might be less expensive, but it's the process of reducing the number that makes savings hard to achieve. You mentioned cars specifically; will reducing the number of forces reduce the "front - line" activities? I can't see it, but I'm open to persuasion. If front - line activity stays the same, how can the number of cars be reduced? Do tell!

    I don't doubt that (say) 21 forces could be cheaper to run than 42 - but reducing the number incurs unavoidable restructuring costs that have to be recovered before any actual savings are made. It is not difficult to set out examples of costs that may not be blindingly obvious when someone (a politician?) says "make it so" but I'll save them for another occasion. "Back Office Functions" are a generic favourite...

    1. Loud Speaker

      Re: Oh! No! There! Isn't!

      I don't care how many forces there are, there ought to be a single government procurement strategy - based on explaining to MS that UK plc has nuclear weapons, and MS does not.

      "We want X,000 licences covering all conceivable uses, and we will pay £50 * X,000. If you don't like it, either we go Linux, or if we can't, we find you guilty of abuse of monopoly, and fine you <your price> - £50 * X,000.

      [you might want to employ a few lawyers to get the fine print correct].

      Yes I do remember granny telling me not to put all my eggs in one basket. That applies to IT contracts and Police Forces. A government that procures all its software from a single source clearly needs to be on a charge of criminal incompetence. A public that trusts a single police force is likely to end up on random charges.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Oh! No! There! Isn't!

        I don't care how many forces there are, there ought to be a single government procurement strategy - based on explaining to MS that UK plc has nuclear weapons*, and MS does not.

        *As an aside - long may it remain so!

        Does this mean a single strategy for IT or a single strategy for everything? As you hint a single strategy must not be allowed to lead to a single source or all sorts of unpleasant things will start to happen, mainly the single supplier ratcheting costs up because there is nothing that can be done to stop it. In any case I'm not entirely sure that there isn't a single strategy, but that it nonetheless leads to perverse outcomes. Another major downside (at least from a government's point of view) is that a "single strategy" might turn out to be wrong (think NHS software plans) and it becomes extremely hard to make the blame land elsewhere, although in reality politicians seem adept at "moving on" and conveniently forgetting even the most recent blunders.

        There was an attempt to reduce the number of forces several years ago but for whatever reason the plan foundered and nothing happened apart from the fact that some forces had already spent considerable sums working out how they could amalgamate with selected neighbours; I don't think they were ever reimbursed for their trouble.

        Back to the IT front... like many others, Police Forces require IT systems above and beyond standard "office" (small "o") ones; Command & Control for one. My local force (NNNPD) has a mapping system that can find roads by name but not by road number; on a couple of occasions I have had reason to contact them and the only road information I could supply was the road number. They were unable to identify the locations. This sort of situation is easily compounded by such policies as reducing the number of control rooms to save costs; one immediate effect is that local knowledge is lost.

        Did the Grand Plan to reduce the number of fire service control rooms ever come to fruition? I seem to think it didn't, which left us, the taxpayers, with an enormous bill rather than any savings; another case of "be careful what we wish for".

        "Well , here's another nice mess you've gotten me into"

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Oh! No! There! Isn't!

      Assuming the number of on the street flat-feet, et al. will be about the same I doubt consolidation would save that much money. The number on the street dictates the size of the force which in turn requires a certain size backend to support. Consolidation might make some contracts cheaper and somewhat reduce the number of backend positions (need 150 bean counters not 160 ).

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Oh! No! There! Isn't!

        ...somewhat reduce the number of backend positions

        Oh the joy at hearing the financial wizards described as "backend positions! A thoroughly deserved upvote for that one.

        But it does neatly indentify the point that consolidation does not necessary lead to significant reductions in manpower costs, and the reductions might be overwhelmed by any relocation costs and office reorganisations, which sometimes require new builds; goodbye savings!

  19. Cincinnataroo

    Great move for "those who steal data".

    As it consolidates we approach one place to steal data instead of many.

  20. Adrian Midgley 1

    And FLOSS for Scottish Central

    They ditched MS Office some years ago, IIRC. Have they dumped the operating systems as well yet?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 become 1

    Kent and Essex Police are 2 years into a "collaborative" effort in which their IT services have been merged. I know this as I recently left, along with 20 or so other technicians. As a result the sheer complexity combined with twice the number of incompetent mangers has made the whole process a cluster f**k of epic proportions. The whole idea was to reduce licensing costs but these costs have only grown as good deals were renegotiated poorly and expensive software replaced perfectly good cheaper or open-source alternatives.

    Costs are spiraling out of control and the senior management team have resorted to hiring a consultancy firm to do the job they are supposed to do. Surprise surprise the consultancy firm has taken a firm back-seat but from what colleagues have told me refuse to make any real firm decisions either.

    £8.4 million of tax payers money has been earmarked for the next 3 years to be spent on IT improvements - a vast increase on previous years and now talk of outsourcing is being whispered through the offices with the 3rd restructure in less than 2 years taking place in March.

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