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No 'rival bid' for Met's water cannon

Concerns raised about rush to purchase as German police confirm no alternative sale was imminent.

No 'rival bid' for Met's water cannon

Date - 9th October 2014
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle
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No rival bid was tabled for the water cannon purchased by the Metropolitan Police, PoliceOracle.com can reveal.

The force procured three second hand water cannon from the German Federal Police at a total cost of £218,205 earlier this year.

But seven months on from a formal request for their use in mainland Britain to be sanctioned, Home Secretary Theresa May has still not made up her mind on the matter.

Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh had stated that the purchase was accelerated because of an imminent risk of the less lethal weapon being sold to another bidder.

But now a spokeswoman for the German Federal Police has contradicted his claim by confirming that "no purchase intention was expressed" by an alternative buyer.

A French delegation had inspected the cannon, she said - but, crucially, they never followed through with any bid.

In June Mr Greenhalgh told the London Assembly that the purchase represented a £2.4 million saving and was a time-limited offer.

He added: "If we hadn't procured [now] they would have been sold to another authority, and we don't want to see anything go to the French.

"It was a deal for the taxpayer and that's why we procured them when we did."

Mr Greenhalgh was again quizzed on the subject last month by Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who asked him whether another country would have immediately snapped up the water cannon if the Met had not done so.

He told her he understood this to be the case "unless you have any information to the contrary" - and said this information had come to him from Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley.

Responding to an enquiry asking whether there were any other bids for the less lethal weapons, the German Federal Police spokeswoman said: "France has shown some interest in the 'Wasserwerfer 9' (Water Cannon 9).

"The vehicles were presented to a delegation of the French Ministry of the Interior in the Federal Police Office Sank Augustin [in western Germany].

"No purchase intention was expressed."

Baroness Jones said: “We were told the Mayor had to buy these water cannon before they were licensed because they were about to be snapped up by other interested parties. But now it seems no one else expressed an interest in buying them. The argument that we couldn’t wait until they were licensed seems to ring hollow."

She added: "Water cannon has no place on London’s streets and they should never have been bought.”

Advantageous cost

But a spokeswoman from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) maintained the procurement decision was the correct one.

“The offer from the German Federal Police to purchase three water cannon at a saving of around £2.39m over the cost of procuring new devices was time-limited until the end of July," she said.

"When previous cannon were offered by the German police to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) with a time limit of December 2013 these were sold to another purchaser following the expiration of that deadline. We did not anticipate further such opportunities to purchase at such an advantageous cost.

"The MPS, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Association of Chief Police Officers have all made the case for having water cannon as part of the public order toolkit, and a majority of Londoners support the police having them. The Mayor has made his position clear and we now await the Home Secretary's licensing decision."

The force itself also maintains the best deal was secured by buying the water cannon in June.

However, there is still no date set for a decision on licensing the use of the devices, a spokeswoman for the Home Office told PoliceOracle.com.

As previously reported, senior officers believed the government had enough information to make the decision to authorise the device in December 2012.

Minute papers from the national Water Cannon Project board in early 2013 stated that the Met had "no appetite to let another summer pass without cannon being available and that everything possible would be done to secure water cannon for this summer."

The force looked at the possibility of loaning cannon from another country initially, but this was eventually not deemed unsuitable.

A formal request for authorisation was lodged in March this year.

The water cannon are currently being re-fitted while training is being given to some officers in its use.

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