Friday, 8 December 2017

Police in Procurement


I recently found procurement data for England and Wales police force online and thought it would be fun to see what it contained. Market Dojo have been thinking about reporting recently, and have found that a lot of our customers are using or planning to use Microsoft Power BI. To learn more, I decided to use Power BI in my analysis.

The purpose of publishing the data was to help identify where forces could save money by working together. The benefits this can bring were demonstrated by a recent e-auction. Twenty forces, including Police Scotland and British Transport Police, collaborated to buy almost 3,000 police vehicles, and the deal delivered £3.7m of savings for the taxpayer*.

The data is provided in csv files, with 2 files (services and equipment) for each of the 43 police forces. By combining all the separate files, we were able to analyse it more easily. 

Total spend by force

The data covers 38 specific categories of spend. By multiplying the price by the quantity for each of the items included in the report, we can see how much each force spent.

Services Vs Equipment

Viewing by force, and showing the breakdown of services v equipment data, we immediately see that spending by the Met is much larger than other forces. Not really surprising as it has more than 33,000 officers, compared to around 8,000 for the second largest force (Greater Manchester) **.

Metropolitan Police
A very large proportion of the Met’s £19,161,138.30 spend goes on office cleaning, in fact, it is 70.59% of the total spend reported!
It is difficult to compare this with similar forces. Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Merseyside all use an in-house cleaning service and as a result, do not publish a figure for this service. The comments section is frequently used for this category with South Wales is a good example:

“The force does not pay for standard office cleaning per m2 as the cost is dependent on many factors such as frequency of clean, type of use (canteen, office, store etc) and what if any equipment is needed. A monthly bill for cleaning the force premises is monitored through a schedule of rates per building. The force's Estates department has calculated the average cost per m2 per annum taking all these considerations into account.”

However, it is interesting to note the big differences in how this category of spending is treated, and perhaps this is an opportunity to share best practice. Cleaning services and energy supply are both areas where eAuctions have been used with great success.

Most expensive items by average cost

The most expensive items included were the vehicles, and as this is something that is purchased less frequently, the variance between forces is quite large.

Average cost and units purchased: Compact High-performance estate vehicle - fully converted. 

The most expensive item is the ‘Compact High-performance estate vehicle - fully converted’. Costs range from £34,724.21 to £17,252.27. Different makes are purchased including BMW, Volvo and Vauxhall and it appears that they are customized for specific uses. We can see from the graph that there is a relationship between the number of items purchased and the cost. The big difference in cost probably relates to the different requirements for each force, and even between individual vehicles, however as vehicle purchasing was the area highlighted as an opportunity for collaboration and saving*, it may be possible to improve in this area. 
Cheapest five items by average unit cost.

Of the five cheapest items purchased, the one with the lowest cost was telephone call charges. I imagine there is significant variance here, but noticed this is one category where none of the submissions included any clarifying comments.

Total published spend on per minute telephone call charges.

Many forces did not submit a number of minutes used, so total values are only available for some forces. The force that spent the most on call charges was Devon and Cornwall, at £10,290. Norfolk and Suffolk both reported a quantity of 11 minutes, but Lincolnshire used 2151 minutes for a total cost of £18.28


I found investigating these public data sets to be fascinating, and am sure that by sharing their data, procurement teams will be able to find new ways to collaborate and purchase more efficiently. 

In reading the comments and clarifications that are included with the data, I was also reminded of some of the challenges and scrutiny which are part and parcel of public sector procurement.  


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