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.

While fire services need to have vital access to this type of equipment because it can help to save lives, people are asking the question of whether it should be this expensive. As well as equipment such as ladders and vehicles, fire reporting software and other technological features are equally as important. Without it, it can be hard to improve the overall operations of the fire department which includes health and safety.

In this job, the right equipment can make all the difference, regardless of how much it costs. And, if one might have noticed, most fire protection service providers tend to make use of the latest developments to provide their services.

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, and it is yet unknown how much money they have to spend to print and create ID badges to confirm their identity as an officer in the fire or police service – see here for one of the best and cheapest options to consider.

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.”