Procurement skills 'key to getting value for money in police forces'

21 July 2010

21 July 2010 | Angeline Albert

Better procurement could save police forces in England and Wales £100 million, auditors believe.

A report out this week, Sustaining value for money in the police service, produced by the Audit Commission, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Wales Audit Office, challenges police forces to save a total of £1 billion, or 12 per cent of their central government funding.

Twenty out of 34 chief constables interviewed said local police unit commanders lacked the finance skills to deliver savings, which is one of several obstacles to better buying. Fewer than one-third of the chief constables identified leadership skills as important in achieving savings. The report said the lack of such skills was another barrier to getting value for money.

Increasing the skills of procurement staff will help the police “extract and maintain benefits from current and future contracts”, the report said.

Forces spent £1.3 billion in 2008-09 on supplies and services, an increase of 111 per cent since 1997-98.

Police authorities were being urged by the three watchdogs to do more to collaborate with other forces and third parties to secure greater efficiencies. Collaboration work resulted in four forces in Wales saving £3.3 million on purchasing goods and services in 2008-09, and elsewhere Kent and Essex are merging IT departments to save £20 million over 10 years.

Ten out of 16 forces visited for the joint report, were described as having an approach to efficiency that was “unlikely to address the emerging financial challenge”. A separate survey by the HMIC (also published on 20 July), shows that only eight of the 43 forces had made adequate preparations for budget cuts.

The joint audit report says savings can be made by breaking down “silos”, and a more efficient match between risk of crime and the number of police on duty to deal with peaks and troughs in demand.

Sir Denis O’Connor, chief inspector of the constabulary, said: “Our reports show that while some forces are getting ready for the budget cuts we know are inevitable, many forces have yet to make adequate preparations.”

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