Government calls for greater collaboration between police forces in England and Wales to drive down costs
Since 2010-2011, forces have saved in excess of £290 million through better procurement and collaboration, but new information released by the Government shows that there are still many areas where forces could work together to identify further savings.
The release of this latest information is part of the Government’s transparency agenda to make the police more accountable to members of the public, and provide information on the prices paid by police for 18 essential items including forensic, telephony and office supplies. Forces are also asked to report on the extent to which they’ve collaborated to purchase these items.
The data indicates that high levels of collaboration are generally associated with lower prices and that forces can, and should, use this information to help identify further saving opportunities.
Making police forces more accountable
Brandon Lewis, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, said: “This information is a key part of making our police forces more accountable to the public through greater transparency. Thanks to this and last year’s reports, it’s clear that savings are being made due to greater collaboration, but the police service must go further still to deliver greater savings for the taxpayer. It’s absolutely essential that broad and deep collaboration within police procurement is the rule, not the exception. Police forces must continue to use their resources more efficiently by working together, while Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) must hold chief constables to account for this.”
Last year, the police in England and Wales spent around £2.2 billion on goods and services. The Government is clear that increased transparency on the costs of essential items will help police chiefs consider opportunities for further efficiency savings and make the police more accountable to the taxpayer.
The Government will continue to support forces to drive down procurement expenditure and realise potential savings of up to £350 million in real terms come the end of this Parliament by encouraging greater collaboration between forces and, indeed, with other public and Emergency Services.
The Home Office has recently provided £2 million in funding under the Police Transformation Fund to support collaborative procurement.
Comparing all 43 forces in England and Wales
The latest statistics report follows the publication in September last year of the prices paid by the police for items such as vehicles, uniforms and related equipment and will allow the public to further compare all 43 forces in England and Wales. Some of the items in the new release illustrate the complex and changing demands on police resources, for example for the analysis of mobile telephones.
The items included are DNA tests, toxicology tests, mobile phone examinations, forensic stain analysis, credit reports, temporary staff – administrators, hire cars for one-day hire, hire cars for 30-day hire, standard office white copier paper, telephone interpretation – including call recording (Monday to Friday working hours), face-to-face interpreters (Monday to Friday working hours, excluding mileage and expenses) and standard office cleaning – excluding specialist cleaning (Force average) as well as telecom call charges – local peak (08.00 h to 18.00 h).
Following publication of the Home Office’s latest police procurement data, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Lead for Finance believes that transparent benchmarking of procurement data is an important part of securing value for money for the public.
Chief Constable David Thompson explained: “Police forces are committed to ensuring value for money for the public. We welcome transparent benchmarking data being shared across policing as an important part of securing this value. There will, of course, be good reasons for variations in many cases, with different specifications of products required for different circumstances or contracts signed at different dates. We’re working hard to converge these requirements through the Collaboration in Law Enforcement Procurement Programme. This has already seen value being delivered in vehicle procurement, interpreters and uniforms. Further funds are being invested in order to strengthen this work.”
*The force-by-force comparison can be found here: https://www.police.uk/procurement/services/dna-test/
**The police.uk website provides members of the public with policing and crime prevention information, including street-level crime maps and anti-social behaviour data for their local area. A range of performance information for each force (including procurement data) is also published on the site, allowing the public to see how their force compares and, through their PCC, to hold their force to account
Home Office publishes fire procurement information
The Home Office has just published the first-ever national overview of what each Fire and Rescue Authority in England pays for 25 common items of uniform and equipment.
The move is the first step in the Government’s programme of reform for the sector, announced back in May 2016 and specifically focusing on diversity, efficiency and transparency. The data will enable authorities, and the public, to compare how much is being spent on these essential items in order to ensure best value for money.
All 45 authorities in England provided data on their recent procurement, with the items published including workwear, vehicles and firefighters’ personal protective equipment, as well as front line equipment such as breathing apparatus and automated external defibrillators.
The data shows that authorities are paying similar prices for some standard items. Some are collaborating to strike better deals with suppliers. However, authorities can do more collaboratively to drive down the amount they pay on some of the essential goods they need to keep the public safe.
Brandon Lewis commented: “It makes no sense for Fire and Rescue Authorities to buy separately when there are both financial and operational benefits to be realised by buying together. While some Fire and Rescue Authorities are already collaborating on procurement and reaping the benefits, there’s still a lot more to be done. This is why I’ve published key fire procurement data on the prices that authorities currently pay for the most common items of uniforms and equipment. By doing so, I hope to increase transparency and encourage the sector to take on the challenge of reforming its own commercial landscape.”
Collaborative approach to procurement
The Government is fully determined to help authorities adopt a collaborative approach to procurement, not only because of the potential savings that can be achieved through Fire and Rescue Authorities buying collectively, but also because of the operational benefits of standardising the items purchased.
The benefits of authorities working together are already being seen around the country. Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, Kent Fire and Rescue Authority and Essex Fire and Rescue Authority were awarded £370,000 from the Fire Transformation Fund in May last year for a joint project to establish a national procurement collaboration hub for the sector which is supported by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).
For its part, CFOA is also forming a new Strategic Commercial Committee led by Ann Millington (Kent Fire and Rescue Authority’s CEO) with the objective of transforming the commercial landscape for fire as a whole.