Police cautioned by MPs over price variations

16 September 2013

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17 September 2013 | Will Green

MPs have slammed the way UK police forces purchase equipment after it emerged prices paid for an identical items vary by as much as 33 per cent.

The Committee of Public Accounts (PAC), in its report Police Procurement, said the price paid for standard-issue items such as boots varied from £25 to £114 between forces and for handcuffs from £14 to £43.

MPs said not enough use is made of national contracts and while “big savings” could be made through bulk buying, forces – which had a combined procurement spend of £1.7 billion in 2010/11 – “have been unable to agree on the most simple things, like how many pockets they should have on their uniforms”.

Margaret Hodge, Labour MP and chairwoman of the PAC, said: “Police forces pay widely varying prices for very similar items, which means money is being wasted.

“This is even the case where items are identical. It cannot be right that prices paid for the same type of high-visibility jacket varied by as much as 33 per cent.

“With central funding being cut, police forces must ensure they get best value for money from procurement so that they can focus resources on fighting crime.”

The report said take-up of a new online procurement hub was “woeful”, with just 2 per cent of items being bought through it, against a target of 80 per cent by the end of this parliament.

The PAC said the Home Office should report back in a year’s time on progress towards greater collaboration and bulk buying and the level of savings achieved.

Hodge said: “The department cannot persuade enough individual forces to cooperate with its attempts to introduce more centralised procurement, in part because forces are sceptical about the commercial competence of procurement officers working at the centre.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We recognise the need to show police and crime commissioners (PCCs) the potential benefits of working collaboratively and using the Police Procurement Hub.

“Forces have already saved more than £100 million to date through better procurement and we are determined to work with PCCs to ensure they get best value for every penny of taxpayers’ money.

“Our police reforms are working and recorded crime is down by more than 10 per cent since the election. Police forces are rising to the challenge of cutting spending while maintaining services to the public.”

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