24 February 2011 | Lindsay Clark
function, rather than the specification, of a product or service is the key to
success in collaborative public sector purchasing projects.
Speaking to SM after the Public SectorProcurement North
event in Manchester, Richard Flint, head of transport for North Yorkshire Police, said allowing stakeholders to specify a technology or
supplier could lead to a proliferation of the product types purchased through
collaborative buying schemes.
Instead it would be
better to understand the function the product or service would perform in the
organisation. Once the purpose of the product or service has been established,
the buying team can choose the appropriate supplier to fulfil the need, rather
than trying to satisfy the desire for a variety of brands or technical
As chairman of the
National Association of Police Fleet Managers (NAPFM), Flint has negotiated
collaborative procurement deals across police forces and seen how difficult it
to get agreement from stakeholders on specifications. The NAPFM has put
together joint procurement deals for police vehicles, along with oils, tyres,
and windscreens, which have saved £32 million a year in total compared with
“If you try to get
two people to amalgamate one will say: ‘We’re different, we did it this way, we
carry a different type of equipment’. We say: ‘Why should you? You’re all doing
the same job’,” he said.
Working with the
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) the NAPFM and the National Policing Improvement Agency have put together a
mandatory deal to users only specify the role of the police vehicles they buy,
rather than the marque or engine size, which will become available in the next
was vital to get buy-in from all the forces in England and Walessigning
up to the deal, which was finalised with
NAPFM last year.
“We set out a standard framework, but ACPO mandated that so everybody uses the
contract. We are working toward a system where you generate volume,”
Other public sector
bodies could learn from these lessons in collaborative buying, as the cuts to central
government grants squeeze local government spending, Flint said. “Why are all
the dustbin wagons different in every organisation? There’s no reason for it.
Obviously the costs come down dramatically when you aggregate your spend.”