‘Solid progress’ – Home Office decides it no longer needs £60m back-up plan for programme to replace police database

With a margin of error of only a few months in long-term project to replace national platform,  department revealed that it was putting together a ‘contingency option’ to ensure continuity

The Home Office has decided that it no longer needs to put in place a multimillion-pound contingency plan to ensure continuity of access to a core national police database.

The department is entering the final stretch of a long-term £600m project to replace the 50-year-old Police National Computer with a new nationwide system: the Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS).

The programme is due complete delivery by the end of 2025, just three months before support for PNC is due to cease – after more than five decades – and the system will be turned off for good.

Given the tight timeline for delivering LEDS – which has already been pushed back by a total of five years – coupled with the critical importance of the PNC, the Home Office revealed earlier this year that it was engaging with suppliers to create a formal “contingency plan”.

In an early-engagement notice published this summer, the department indicated that it was likely to launch a procurement exercise later this year to put in place a contract worth about £60m. This deal would be intended to provide a safety net to cover any further project delays by ensuring continuity of access to PNC beyond 2025, should it be needed.

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However, in a newly published commercial notice, the department has revealed that it now believes a Plan B is no longer needed – as work on Plan A is on schedule.

“We continue to make solid progress in LEDS and remain confident in LEDS delivery to enable to the PNC to be decommissioned as scheduled,” it said.” On the 22nd Aug 2023, the LEDS Programme Board endorsed the recommendation to stand down the PNC Service Continuity procurement and that we will therefore not progress this contingency option. We have therefore decided to formally communicate the withdrawal of the [previous notice]. We thank you for your engagement in the procurement process thus far and acknowledge that this may be disappointing whilst at the same time confirms a positive milestone for LEDS.”

PNC contains records of 13 million people and more than 60 million vehicles. The database is accessed around the clock by hundreds of thousands of users across the country, including frontline police officers and other service staff, as well as representatives of organisations such as the Disclosure and Barring Service.

The project to deliver its replacement was originally also intended to replace PNC’s sister system: the Police National Database. Replacement of this comparatively modern 12-year-old platform has been removed from the scope of the LEDS project, to allow for focus on decommissioning the much older PNC.

According to government major project data, the official commencement date for LEDS was April 2014m, although work appears to have begun in earnest in 2016 – with work originally scheduled to conclude in 2020. This deadline was pushed back to 2025 following a comprehensive rest of the programme three years ago.

In the government’s most recent annual round-up of major projects, the LEDS programme was awarded a progress rating of amber on the traffic-light system for rating confidence in successful delivery – the same as it achieved last year.

According to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the amber rating conveys that: “Successful delivery appears feasible but significant issues already exist, requiring management attention. These appear resolvable at this stage and, if addressed promptly, should not present a cost/schedule overrun.”

In-depth data sets published by the IPA said that the LEDS programme remained at amber level this year as a result of various factors.

“The programme leadership is strengthened by the appointment of a permanent, highly experienced programme director and new senior responsible owner who brings a wealth of experience from a policing background,” the data says. “The programme remains large and complex with areas of significant risk which are closely managed and monitored. Stakeholder relationships between policing and the programme are very strong, with evidence of effective integrated joint working and ownership at the Force level.  Adoption is well advanced with five key products rolled out and others in development. There is confidence that the programme is now in a position to successfully deliver a PNC equivalence, or better, by March 2026. It is appropriate that the programme now starts to focus on the complex choreography of moving away from PNC and, in parallel, work up the full transformation vision for a law enforcement data capability that will service a vast array of customers.”

Sam Trendall

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