Standardised rules, processes and specifications have paved the way for more unified buying, as police procurement teams have come together in force
Earlier this year, the procurement team from Yorkshire and the Humber police achieved CIPS Corporate Certification*. It is not a common achievement, and the team are rightly proud.
The transformation that led to accreditation began in 2012, when buying teams from four police forces became one. In keeping with the Home Office drive for greater public sector collaboration, the Police and Crime Commissioners looked to replace the local services working in each force.
Today, Yorkshire and the Humber Police Forces Regional Procurement covers West, South and North Yorkshire and Humberside, providing strategic advice and support, and spending about £220m on goods and services a year. In the last five years, it has delivered over £30m in savings.
The team moved to a category management business model to maximise collaboration for categories of goods and services, explains Glyn Evans, head of supplies. These range from estates, IT, uniforms and firearms to fleet and aviation. “We buy everything from dog food to helicopters,” he says.
Combining the teams involved standardising roles and some business platforms. There is a central contract database, and the team manages region-wide contracts and provides support to other business areas that are responsible for managing business critical contracts. “As we have the category model, when we put a contract in place we write out to see if anybody wants to join us,” says Jo Osborne, director of procurement.
While there is not one standard buying system across all four forces, they all share an e-tendering tool and an e-procurement portal. “We are working on an ERP system for West Yorkshire that is actually open nationally to all police forces or any fire service that wants to use it,” adds Osborne.
The team consists of about 40 people working in an agile manner, she says, using a few desks in each of the forces. “We minimise travel using IT systems, and we have category meetings every month, plus a large team meeting every quarter.”
Having standardised four sets of rules and processes, and moved to a category system, the procurement function became suitable for national contract work, and is now the national lead for a number of key pieces of uniform – “including the black shirt that every cop wears as a base garment,” Evans explains, while still catering for regional needs and the variations across its four forces.
One of the larger contracts that has come under the new procurement function’s remit is for the national police air service – it buys all the helicopters used around the country. And it has successfully led a collaboration for vehicle procurement, (see box).
“When we brought the team together we put a careers structure in place to get people through the qualifications and to professionalise what we do,” Osborne says. Putting the department through the CIPS Corporate Certification was a way to benchmark the whole department’s processes. “It seemed the natural step,” she says. And, she adds, it has been motivating on all levels.
“It was important to give us credence and to make sure we were in line with others, whether that is public sector or private sector,” says Osborne “It sends a message to the suppliers and to the internal clients, and to the public that we are making the best use of our resources and we are delivering an effective service.”
By bringing together 22 forces to buy vehicles, the procurement team made about £5m savings over two years. This was done by standardising vehicles, and more importantly, the specification in the cars.
Across the forces, there had been different sizes of cars used, with one using a small Vauxhall Corsa, say, as a patrol car, while a neighbouring force used the larger Astra, says Jo Osborne.
“The fleet managers worked with us and we created a governance board, so they would represent every area.” The team came together and worked closely to agree the specification, selecting one motorway response vehicle, a beat vehicle and so on. “And they came up with standard specifications, which we put out for competition amongst the manufacturers,” Osborne says.