24 August 2009 | Allie Anderson
England's fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) could save more than £3.5 million each year by collaborating in buying partnerships, according to recommendations made in a three-year plan published by the government.
The National Procurement Strategy for the Fire and Rescue Service in England 2009-2012, published this month, also urges the autonomous FRAs to engage with smaller suppliers to create jobs and secure innovation.
Communities secretary John Denham said: "The new procurement strategy for the fire and rescue service will help authorities achieve value for money, especially if they join up to buy a product they all need."
He added: "If FRAs look at a wider range of suppliers, including smaller companies, they have the opportunity to find the best products, foster innovation, help to create jobs and support local businesses."
Joint procurement exercises could be conducted nationally, regionally or locally to meet FRAs' needs.Fire organisations could also make savings by working with public sector procurement bodies, such as Firebuy, which works with the FRAs, the Central Buying Consortium and Buying Solutions.
Terry Brewer, Firebuy's CEO, said the proposals would build on work over the past three years, which was aimed at securing better value from spend on "fire-specific" equipment, such as engines and apparatus. The next three years will concentrate on improving the purchase of indirect back-office goods and services.
Brewer told SM: "It's a question of making the greatest possible savings so money doesn't have to come off the front line. If FRAs buy the best equipment at the best prices, fire fighters can continue to do their jobs the best they can."