Home Office unable to say when emergency services network will launch

The Whitehall spending watchdog has said the Home Office is still unable to say whether the planned communications system for Great Britain’s blue light services will be operational, despite spending almost £2 billion on the project.

The proposed Emergency Services Network (ESN), first announced in 2015, was to replace older airwave systems for police, fire and ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales by 2020.

However, the National Audit Office (NAO) says that despite the airwaves turn-off date being extended twice, first to 2022 and then to 2026, the Home Office now believes it is likely to be the later, although it Can’t say when or how it will cost a lot.

Motorola, which provides the airwaves, was contracted to provide elements of the ESN, but in 2021 the Home Office wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that its profits from the airwaves were “excessive” and that the ESN was not timely. Acted as a disinfectant to complete.

Following the CMA’s initial estimate that the company stood to make a “super-normal profit” of £1.1bn, Motorola told the Home Office that it could not continue as a supplier to ESN beyond 2024. amid fears that he may be forced out by the CMA. sell airwaves

At the end of 2022, the Home Office agreed to end the contract early, paying Motorola £45m, taking the total spent with the company on the project to over £300m, regardless of whether Doesn’t expect to be able to use either. Its critical software or system.

Until a new contractor is appointed, the Home Office cannot say when the airwaves may be switched off.

Meanwhile it is estimated that between April 2015 and March 2023, it will spend £2bn on ESN and £2.9bn on keeping the airwaves running. Maintaining the airwaves could cost at least £250m per year in the 2030s.

NAO chief Gareth Davies said it was “extremely worrying” the Home Office still did not know when the ESN would be ready or what it would cost.

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“The Home Office is in the process of allowing new contracts to strengthen the programme,” he said. “To address the significant risks the program still faces and avoid wasting taxpayers’ money, it must now also have a realistic timetable and robust contractual and governance arrangements.”

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