This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Collaboration... a sunny morning rant

A tender notification dropped into my inbox this morning: National Uniform Managed Service - NUMS. The tender documents include such words as:
The NUMS Project has the support of all 43 forces in England & Wales plus other Emergency Service and non-Home Office agencies (such as BTP, CNC, NCA, MDP)
  • Standardisation, alignment, uniformity have all been discussed for many years – with various degrees of success. Significant savings and wider benefits could be realised by forces if they considered a Managed Service route. 
  • A wide range of specifications, sourcing methods, contracts and prices; which can often be for the same garment! 
  • Mix of in-house and small outsourced provision, no common disposal or tracking strategy or approach to tax tabbing and divided demand. 
  • Nationally, the 43 forces of England and Wales provide uniform services for over 160,000 uniformed officers and civilian staff.
  • The cost of uniform products is estimated to be in excess of £50million nationally.
  • According to Home Office estimates, the cost of provision of that uniform product to staff is estimated at a significantly higher proportion of spend and key driver for NUMS.
  • Across all 43 forces in England and Wales, there is in excess of £12million worth of stock being held. 
  • There are over several thousand products and in excess of 100,000 line items (SKUs) across all forces.
[my added emphases]

Of course it is well known that policing varies so much between different police force areas that this variety of uniforms is business requirement.... yeah right...

And see this: A standardised national uniform contains only four items currently: Trousers (men’s and women’s); Shirts (men’s and women’s, long and short-sleeved); Fleeces (unisex); Jackets, blouson, high-visibility (unisex) 

So after how many hours of senior officer time, gallons of coffee & crates of sandwiches have the UK police services arrived at this point? What does this say about the real commitment to collaboration if police forces up and down the country have only just managed to agree on four items of uniform? And even then we are in the situation where, as the tender document goes onto to explain that the successful contractor will need to
Deliver a quality service which provides savings for those forces that collaborate within NUMS 
In other words, even when the service is set up, not all forces will necessarily choose to collaborate.

This is nothing short of an epic scandal of inefficiency and the police service should hang its collective head in shame. One test of the influence of PCCs will be to see if they can make collective progress on this matter.

But perhaps I am missing something here: I am entirely open to being told that I am failing to understand the complexities of standardising uniforms across the country. So please just tell me...! 

In the absence of being given these subtleties, I will continue to doubt the fine words anyone in the police service says about collaboration in general.

OK. Morning rant over.


UPDATE 0823 | 060614: In reply to a tweet from CC Lynne Owens who said "This is progress Jon & to suggest otherwise is a little unfair", I would say that I agree. My rant is not at the tender stage we have reached, but at the length of time it has taken to get here and the paucity of ambition contained within it. Yes it is progress but there is room for a great deal more...

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