A new poll by UNISON, the UK’s largest union, reveals that the Tory led-coalition is playing with fire – socially and politically – by actively encouraging police forces to turn over vital operational functions of local policing to private companies.

The union is urging the government to give its backing to publicly provided policing, and is warning forces against turning to privatisation as a solution to the coalition’s drastic cuts.

Almost two thirds (62%) of the public oppose the plans. The results also show that privatisation would erode public trust and confidence in policing – 50% say that they would trust the police less if a private company ran their local services. One in four (25%) would trust their local police force a great deal less.

More than half (53%) reported that they would feel less safe if a private company were answering 999 calls in their area – a quarter (24%) saying they would feel a great deal less safe. In addition, half of British adults (52%) think that the security and confidentiality of police records would worsen; and nearly half think that the standards of service to the public (46%) and accountability of the police force to the British public would get worse (46%).

More than a third think that corruption in the police force (38%), fairness in how the police treat the public (33%), or the police treating all members of the public equally (32%) would worsen.

The poll reveals that pressing ahead with police privatisation will cost the government at the ballot box – including in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections taking place on November 15. More than half (53%) say that they would be less likely to support a political party that wanted to use private companies to provide certain police services, with more than one in three (36%) saying it would make them much less likely.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said:

“By actively encouraging police forces to privatise services, the Tory-Led coalition is playing with fire – politically and socially. Not only will voters turn away from political parties that support the plans, because public trust and confidence in policing will be destroyed, but the moves also have damaging implications for social cohesion.

“In these unsettled times, people need to have confidence in their local police – it is clear that privatisation will damage that trust, jeopardising years of work spent in building a more positive relationship between local communities and the police.

“The Government has to listen to voters, to the public, who do not want their local police services to be sold off to profit-making private companies. As cuts intensify – and there is every reason to believe that they will – the case against privatisation grows only stronger. Once private companies take out their profits – as they are obliged to do by their shareholders – the pot of money left to pay for local policing will shrink, leaving the public with a poorer police service.”