Fire service spend data published on common national procurement needs

Home Office publishes per unit costs of purchases by 45 organisations across England in bid to encourage collaborative buying; direct comparison of information said to be complicated


Some authorities paying as much as five times more than others for the same kit

The Home Office has published what it says is the first ever national overview of procurement for 25 types of common equipment or IT hardware by all English fire and rescue authorities in a transparency drive aimed at encouraging greater collaboration.

In publishing data provided by the country’s 45 fire services, which includes information on desktop and laptop computer spending, as well as protective gear, the department claimed that the information showed similar pricing being paid across the different organisations.

However, the Home Office said it believed authorities could do more in working collaboratively to drive down the amount being paid for essential goods at a time where fire services and the wider public sector face significant cost pressures.

Policing and fire service minister Brandon Lewis reiterated the government’s push to encourage organisations to be more collaborative in trying to realise cost and operational benefits.

“While some fire and rescue authorities are already collaborating on procurement and reaping the benefits, there is still a lot more to be done,” he said.

“This is why I have published key fire procurement data on the prices that authorities currently pay for the most common items of uniforms and equipment for the first time. By doing so, I hope to increase transparency and encourage the sector to take on the challenge of reforming its own commercial landscape.”

The Home Office argued that significant benefits could be realised operationally by various fire services from a more standardised approach to item purchasing.

“The benefits of authorities working together are already being seen around the country,” said the organisation.

”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 2015 for a joint project to establish a national procurement collaboration hub for the sector, supported by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).”

Per unit spend

Based on the data published, Avon Fire and Rescue Service was found to have spent £1,280 on individual laptop computers, the single highest per unit cost of all 45 organisations included in the data.  Five such devices were obtained by Avon at the given cost; although no further specific details were given in the data around the type of equipment acquired.

At the other end of the spending scale, Northamptonshire was found to have paid £224 each for laptop computers during its last procurement exercise, obtaining 12 devices at the cost.

Norfolk was said to have paid the highest amount per unit for its desktop personal computer needs – £626.11 – obtaining a quantity of 22 devices.  This was in direct comparison to Shropshire Fire and Rescue service, which spent £162.75 on each device, with 30 computers acquired at the cost.

In publishing the spend data, which was compiled during a survey period that ran between June 1 and June 23 this year, all 45 fire services were asked to provide spend from the last time they had bought any of the 25 common items.

“For some authorities, this was several years ago, and the general cost of certain items (electronic items in particular) may have changed in the intervening period,” said the Home Office in a notice document.

The department guidance noted that differences in the categories surveyed made direct comparison of the data between different fire and rescue authorities complicated.

Earlier this year, the Home Office was given ministerial responsibility for fire services, announcing it would be pushing forward with operational reforms looking at shared services and collaboration.

As part of wider reforms, the department pledged to radically transform how emergency service providers worked together by creating a new ministerial position focused on procurement and back office operations.