Police are wasting millions on kit because they can't agree on standard issue handcuffs, boots or hi-vis jackets
Disagreed on basic things, such as how many pockets a uniform needsSome forces are paying 400% more than others for a hi-vis jacketForces differed on whether they wanted a steel or black finish on handcuffsJustice minister Damian Green estimates they will now save 110million
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Damian Green estimates that the force will have saved 110million by March 2012 through better procurement
On handcuffs, forces differed on whether they preferred the steel finish or a black colour, and how the two cuffs should be linked together.
Some forces spent just 14 on a set of cuffs, compared to 43 in the most spendthrift constabulary.
Riot shields can be round, curved or long, interlocking and vary in weight and thickness. Some forces prefer shields with map holders and dog handling straps. They cost between 31 and 136 depending on the force.
Body armour varied in areas such as thickness and colour and in price from 203 to 410.
If forces could agree common standards on those five standard goods, they could save 25 per cent of their procurement budgets – or 1.6million a year, the report said.
But coming in the way of agreement was that each piece of equipment had at least nine separate specifications.
The report said: ‘Forces have found it particularly hard to agree common specifications for uniform, which they spent almost 8million on in 2010-11.
The auditors added: ‘If forces cannot agree on such areas, meaningful collaboration will not be feasible.
Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘It is unbelievable that something as simple as a high-visibility jacket has 20 different specifications, with associated prices that differ by as much as 80.
‘Instead of focusing money on tackling crime, police forces are wasting resources disagreeing over how many pockets they should have on their uniforms.'
Forces are facing cuts in Home Office funding totalling 2.1 billion over the five years to 2015.
Together they spend 1.7billion on non-IT equipment every year.
The NAO said forces could save 2.6 million a year – up to a third of their uniform costs – by agreeing a common specification.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge said that it is unbelievable that there were so many differences between the forces
NAO head Amyas Morse said: ‘Faced with the pressure to make substantial savings, it makes sense for police forces to examine the scope for cutting the cost of buying goods and services.
‘What is clear is that many opportunities for savings remain unexploited.
‘Agreement between forces on collaborative ways of buying and common specifications for equipment can deliver better value for money – but implementing this is a challenge where forces are used to doing their own thing.
Policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green said: ‘The NAO report recognises progress is being made. ‘The police are already required to buy vehicles, body armour and some IT through national agreements and we estimate forces will have saved 110 million by March 2013 through better procurement.’