Standardised procurement could save English fire services £18 million a year

Andrew Pring
28 October 2014

Fire and rescue services across England could save £18 million annually by standardising and streamlining the way they buy firefighting clothing and equipment, according to a joint report from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Chief Fire Officers Association.

A report commissioned by DCLG found fire services buying identical kit at vastly different prices, with variations of up to 200 per cent. It cited examples including a pair of protective trousers costing between £125 and £274, a fire helmet costing £105 to £131, and the price of a fire coat ranging £220 to £366.

Concluding that fire and rescue authorities could achieve savings of £18 million from a total spend of £127 million a year, the report suggested the savings could be even greater if applied to all purchases by all fire services, which spends an estimated £600 million each year on buying equipment and fire engines.

DCLG minister Penny Mordaunt said: “It cannot be right that the price of the same piece of kit or protective clothing varies so much for different fire services. This report shows clearly that the 46 fire and rescue services must come together to maximise the buying power of the £600 million they spend and get the best possible value for money for taxpayers.

“In the past decade there has been a 46 per cent reduction in call outs and incidents, and accidental deaths from fires in the home have reached an all-time low yet expenditure and firefighter numbers have remained broadly the same. The case for change is compelling. Taxpayers are right to expect the most cost effective purchases and fire and rescue authorities must seize this opportunity to make changes to drive better procurement.”

The report recommends that fire and rescue authorities seize the opportunity to deliver these significant potential savings by:

• Agreeing a common classification of goods and services 

• Producing an index of prices paid on kit to avoid paying more for the same product

• Securing internal sponsorship, and partnership arrangements

• Managing supplier relationships and contracts better

• Developing a strategy for buying common non-fire goods and services together, everything from energy to office supplies

• Developing a national procurement pipeline plan that documents existing contract periods, future tendering exercises and large-scale procurement opportunities.

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