The UK government has published individual police force spending on 20 common items with the aim of encouraging more collaborative buying.
The Home Office figures, from all 43 constabularies in England and Wales, show significant variations in the amount spent on items such as batons, with some forces spending more than £82 on each baton and others less than £24, though specifications and quantities varied.
The price paid for handheld radios varied from £243 to £500, for epaulettes forces paid between £1.25 and £5 and for helmets most forces spent £28.90 but one spent more than £43. Again, specifications and quantities varied.
Police in England and Wales spend around £1.6 billion each year on goods and services and since 2010-11 £200 million has been saved through better procurement.
Mike Penning, minister for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims, said: “For too long the police have approached the market in a fragmented way, buying equipment in small amounts and to varying specifications.
“Since 2010, police forces have increasingly worked together to buy goods and services and reaped over £200 million in savings by doing so.
“But there remains more to do. It makes no sense for forces to buy separately when money can be saved if they act together. That is why I have published key police procurement information on the prices that forces currently pay for the most common items of uniforms and equipment.
“This will help the public and police and crime commissioners hold chief constables to account for how they spend taxpayers’ money and, crucially, reveal potential opportunities for further savings.”
An Independent Police Commission report in 2013 said it was “disheartened and dismayed by the recurring criticisms of the police service’s inability to rationalise its procurement of IT and non-IT consumables”.
The National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) said procurement alone would not address the challenge of further spending cuts.
Lee Tribe, the NPCC's lead on procurement, said: “Streamlining procurement will be one of a number of ways we save money but it won’t solve the problem alone. We are expecting further cuts of between 25-40 per cent in the coming spending review. The NPCC has been bringing forces together to think carefully about how we respond to the twin challenges of deep reductions in our budgets and changing crime and demand on the service; we are discussing and debating fundamental changes to the way we police.
“This release of data by the Home Office has helpfully highlighted areas of procurement where there are price differences that can be – and are being – addressed.
“In 2012, forces conducted their own review and completed a procurement exercise both for vehicles and a national uniform solution. Following this review, forces have collaborated more when procuring vehicles. Contracts for a new national uniform service will be available to forces in 2016, ensuring forces pay the same price for the same item. These changes will deliver millions of pounds of savings.”