Fire services are are wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money because of the chaotic way they buy supplies, with some paying up to 10 times more for similar items.
The Home Office published figures revealing huge disparities in the amount paid for basic equipment ranging from waterproof jackets and fleeces to portable ladders.
Brandon Lewis, the policing minister, said that it makes “no sense” for forces to continue buying almost identical items separately when they can save money by acting together.
The most significant difference was in the price of waterproof jackets, with Bedfordshire paying £19.35 for each one compared with Cornwall which paid £98.04.
The price paid for personal laptops ranged from £224 in Northamptonshire to £1,280 in Avon, while prices for white shirts varied from £4.20 in Essex to £17.50 in West Yorkshire.
The most significant differences, however, came with more expensive purchases. County Durham and Darlington fire service spent £875 each on 17 thermal imaging cameras in June of this year, while Greater Manchester spent £4,928 on 50 in the same period.
A report published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2014 concluded that efficiency savings of £18 million could be made by reducing variations in the prices paid between authorities for similar items.
Last year Theresa May, the then Home Secretary, announced that Fire brigades needed to cut costs as part of a major shake-up of the way they are run.
The Prime Minister, who pushed through controversial policing reforms, said she was “determined” to improve efficiency in fire and rescue services.
Mr Lewis said: “It makes no sense for fire and rescue authorities to buy separately when there are both financial and operational benefits to buying together.
“While some fire and rescue authorities are already collaborating on procurement and reaping the benefits, there is still a lot more to be done.
“This is why I have published key fire procurement data on the prices that authorities currently pay for the most common items of uniforms and equipment for the first time.
“By doing so, I hope to increase transparency and encourage the sector to take on the challenge of reforming its own commercial landscape.”
Original source: The Telegraph