How much do you pay for yours?

Published:  07 September, 2016

UK Home Office publishes fire and rescue procurement data to encourage collaborative projects, reports Ann-Marie Knegt.

The results of the procurement survey issued to 45 Fire and Rescue Services is one of the first steps by the Home Office to reform the sector and make it more transparent and more accountable to the public. It is part of wider UK Government reform announced in May 2016 focussing on diversity, efficiency and transparency.

It is expected that Fire Authorities will use the data to compare with others how much they spend on essential items, thereby ensuring that they are achieving the best possible value.

The survey, which ran 1-23 June, required Fire and Rescue Services to provide details regarding 25 commonly procured items of PPE and equipment including helmets, fire tunics, trousers, BA sets, cylinders and fire appliances. The information required covered cost, quantity, date purchased, supplier, and whether the purchase had been made jointly or as part of a collaborative framework.

Some authorities use a shared service agreement for the procurement and management of their PPE. The survey found that Gloucestershire paid most per firefighter per annum for this service at US$666 (£507.85), while Bedfordshire paid the least at US$570 (£434.85). The items of personal protective equipment included in these fully managed services varied depending on the terms of the agreement, as did the level of service – for example, maintenance, replacement and laundering of items.

The survey revealed that the average price of a fire helmet in the UK is US$212 (£162). However, in Oxfordshire firefighters pay the most at a cost of US$331 (£252.53), while in Cumbria they pay the least by procuring helmets at US$177 (£135).

On average authorities spend around US$554 (£422.56) for a fire jacket and trousers. The Fire and Rescue Services that pay the most for their kit are Cambridgeshire at US$759, (£579.41) and Greater Manchester at US$721 (£549.95), while firefighters in Wiltshire don fire garments that cost only US$426 (£325).

Most FRS pay around US$973 (£741.79) for a BA set, excluding cylinder, but the survey revealed that Cornwall pays US$1,907 (£1,504.19), with West Yorkshire close behind at US$1,786 (£1,361.54). Lincolnshire, however, has managed to procure BA sets for less than a third of Cornwall’s budget at just US$547 (£417) per set.

For some types of equipment, such as medium-sized pumping appliances, there is a significant difference between authorities. This, states the Home Office, is because the operational requirements of each fire and rescue authority impact upon equipment choice and therefore cost, as each FRS must determine which class of rescue pumping appliance is appropriate for them.

On average, a UK fire service pays around US$241,431 (£184,000) for a medium-sized rescue pumping appliance – this is without taking into account cost variations between the different types of chassis and bodywork available. London Fire Brigade, for instance, bought 53 units at a price of US$301,579 (£229,857) per appliance while the FRS in Merseyside bought two units for just US$126,563 (£96,470) each. Staffordshire FRS pays the most, with the brigade purchasing four units at US$364,533 (£277,845).

Brandon Lewis, Minister for Policing and Fire Services, said that authorities should collaborate more to drive down prices of their essential equipment. “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,” he commented.

The push for authorities to work together is already being felt around the country. Devon & Somerset FRA, Kent FRA, and Essex FRA were awarded US$485,000 (£370,000) in May 2015 to jointly establish a national procurement collaboration hub for the sector.

 

The data can be downloaded via the following link:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-and-rescue-authority-procurement-data.

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