Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced legislation which will enable the police, fire and ambulance services to combine their back office functions, IT and procurement to save money.
Drawing on lessons from the business world, the legislation projects a "smarter state" where functions are streamlined to reduce costs and boost productivity. Such reform in public services could not have been more timely.
Emergency services providers have long collaborated to maximise efficiency – something we fully support. We have seen fire and police authorities collaborate to purchase items such as office supplies, ICT and station wear. But securing agreements on procurement contracts has been challenging for buying organisations such as YPO, as well as emergency services providers, in the past.
This is mainly due to the restrictions emergency services providers face when it comes to collaborating on procurement decisions. Most operate within complex organisational structures, therefore face different internal rules and financial processes. Also, it is often difficult for emergency services providers to agree on timings, especially if a provider has an urgent requirement that cannot be adjusted to accommodate the needs of other providers.
This latest move will ensure collaboration is pursued more regularly, saving time and money during a period when emergency services are facing challenging financial restraints and high public expectations.
Collaborative working has traditionally worked well for standard, in-demand supplies required by emergency services providers on a regular basis, such as stationery, but we also recognise the benefits of collaborative working when procuring items like specialist vehicles.
Specialist vehicles such as fire engines, ambulances and rapid response vehicles are the backbone of all emergency services providers in the UK. With thousands of people reliant on the emergency services every day, it is essential vehicles are reliable, safe and effective. Fleet managers are therefore constantly under pressure to procure and maintain a high quality fleet.
The new legislation provides fleet managers with the opportunity to actually work together, consider all the pros and cons, and make decisions that are mutually beneficial. The only stumbling block may be the considerable difference in types and specifications of vehicles. Still, the legislation is likely to spur talk of greater collaboration in this area, which in times of austerity, can be critical to saving jobs and lives.
At YPO, we are working closely with our customers to educate them on the new legislation and explore possible means of collaboration that will help them operate as efficiently as possible.
☛ Sarah Sesum is category specialist for emergency services and blue light at YPO