essfireThe Chief Fire Officers Association has said it will use the findings of a recent Department for Communities & Local Government research paper to improve the way services acquire firefighting clothing and equipment.

The report, Supporting fire and rescue authorities to reduce the number and impact of fires, highlights several examples of fire services buying identical kit at vastly different prices. The report found that across the country the 46 fire and rescue services could save millions by streamlining this process and standardising how they buy clothing and equipment.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: “It cannot be right that the price of the same piece of kit or protective clothing varies so much for different fire services. This report shows clearly that the 46 fire and rescue services must come together to maximise the buying power of the £600 million they spend and get the best possible value for money for taxpayers.”

Compelling case for change
“In the last decade there has been a 46% reduction in call outs and incidents, and accidental deaths from fires in the home have reached an all-time low yet expenditure and firefighter numbers have remained broadly the same,” he continued.

“The case for change is compelling. Taxpayers are right to expect the most cost effective purchases and fire and rescue authorities must seize this opportunity to make changes to drive better procurement.”

Key differences included:
- Prices for the same kit can vary by as much as 200%, with a pair of protective trousers costing between £125 and £274
- when the same supplier was used, prices varied by a quarter: for example, a fire helmet can cost between £105 and £131
- even when the same contract was used there is still a significant price difference of 66%: for example, a fire coat can cost between £220 and £366.

The report concluded that FRSs could achieve savings of £18 million from a total spend of £127 million a year. The savings could be even greater if applied to all purchases by all fire services, which spends an estimated £600 million each year on buying equipment and fire engines.

Opportunities to make substantial savings
Responding to the findings, CFOA said that despite innovations including a 12 authority PPE purchasing agreement, they recognise that real improvements can be made in this area, and has been working to support fire authorities to raise procurement standards and use collaborative contracts when there is a clear business case to do so.

Ann Millington, Corporate Services and Sector Improvement Director, CFOA added: “We recognise the significant opportunities here for FRAs to make substantial savings, and feed this back into continuing to deliver a world-class, best value for money service to communities. This is why we at CFOA want to drive progress on this across the sector, and we will be releasing a strategy to do this shortly.”

The Association says it will use the evidence provided by DCLG to inform its work to deliver a new Fire and Rescue procurement strategy.