Fire services paying five times over the odds for kit

Fire services are spending vastly different amounts on basic items of equipment, with some shelling out almost £3,000 more for ladders or £27,000 more for an officer’s vehicle.

Ministers have criticised the figures, claiming that such discrepancies “make no sense”. Some authorities paid as much as five times more than others for similar kit, according to figures supplied to the Home Office by individual fire and rescue services.

While the Oxfordshire service bought firefighting helmets without a torch for £252 each, Merseyside paid just £120. Cambridgeshire spent almost £580 on trousers and tunic compared with £325 in Wiltshire. Cornwall paid just under £75 for leather boots but West Midlands forked out £175 a pair.

The cost of jumpers ranged from less than £7 in Buckinghamshire to £38.62 in Lincolnshire and Staffordshire. While Suffolk spent £2.24 on a T-shirt, Lincolnshire paid £15. A waterproof jacket cost Cornwall £98 but it was £19.35 in Bedfordshire.

Portable ladders were purchased for almost £4,200 in Humberside compared with less than £1,500 in Hertfordshire while a hand-held thermal imaging camera bought by Shropshire cost £5,500 compared with £875 in Co Durham and Darlington.

Derbyshire has provided 65 officers with vehicles valued at £13,630 each, Hampshire 60 officers with vehicles valued at £19,700, and London 52 officers with vehicles at £23,000 each. Bedfordshire has provided only one officer with a vehicle, which cost £36,000, while Cleveland’s vehicle for an officer cost £9,000.

Last year figures revealed that some police forces spend ten times more than others on the same items of equipment.

Brandon Lewis, minister for policing and the fire service, who published the figures, said: “It makes no sense for fire and rescue authorities to buy separately when there are both financial and operational benefits to buying together.”

Sean Starbuck of the Fire Brigades Union said: “We are already involved in a collaboration like this with more than 20 brigades around the country, and we welcome a national collaborative approach to the procurement of firefighters’ protective clothing and equipment.”