Police forces 'should stop wasting cash' and club together to buy uniforms in bulk

MPs say forces squander thousands of pounds on equipment that could be bought in bulk

Millions of pounds are being squandered by police forces that spend up to £114 for a pair of standard-issue boots which should cost less than a quarter of the price, MPs have warned.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee protested that forces were unwilling to club together to buy items in bulk, leading to “unacceptable” variations in money spent on basic equipment.

The 43 forces in England and Wales were paying between £25 and £114 for similar boots and between £14 and £43 for handcuffs. There were even wide differences for identical products, with a 33 per cent variation in prices paid for exactly the same kind of high-visibility jacket used by officers.

In a report published today, the MPs called for closer collaboration between forces and urged them to co-operate on the design of uniforms to produce greater standardisation. Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chairman, said: “Forces can make big savings through bulk-buying, but have been unable to agree on the most simple things, like how many pockets they should have on their uniforms. With central funding being cut, police forces must ensure they get the best value for money from procurement so that they can focus on fighting crime.”

Margaret Hodge, Committee chair: 'Forces are unable to agree even on how many pockets to have on their uniforms' Margaret Hodge, Committee chair: 'Forces are unable to agree even on how many pockets to have on their uniforms'

Britain’s various forces, which are now overseen by recently elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs), spend £1.7bn on procurement annually, about 13 per cent of their total budget of £13bn.

The MPs said: “There is an institutional tension between local autonomy and effective value for money in buying everything from uniforms to paper.”

The Home Office, which provides about 80 per cent of police budgets, has powers to intervene where it identifies waste. However, the department’s initiatives to promote central purchasing of equipment have been largely shunned by forces, the committee reported. Just 2 per cent of items are bought through a central online “procurement hub”, far short of a target of 80 per cent by mid-2015.

Ms Hodge said: “We recognise that police and crime commissioners have authority over local spending but, as the department remains accountable for public money voted by Parliament, it cannot step back from value for money issues. National contracts with suppliers are not used by enough forces and do not cover many basic goods and services.”

She also bemoaned the lack of data about procurement which could otherwise be used to hold individual police forces to account.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We recognise the need to show police and crime commissioners the potential benefits of working collaboratively and using the police procurement hub. Forces have already saved more than £100m through better procurement and we are determined to work with PCCs to ensure they get best value for taxpayers’ money. Our reforms are working and recorded crime is down by more than 10 per cent since the election. Police forces are rising to the challenge of cutting spending.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee