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spaces, see what happens. And then do some benchmarking with those operations and see what it’s costing to outsource. Then we’ll have some true facts and figures.”

Flint cautioned against the tendency to package services up into one cluster rather than “picking and choosing the best bits that would be cost effective to outsource”.

There is a lot more work to be done on this analysis and benchmarking and taking the time to make the right decision is key, he suggested.

“It’s a case of taking a back-step; for forces that haven’t outsourced, watching those forces that have and hopefully they share information as to what’s best.”

Police must analyse their current business to fully understand their costs, to be able to benchmark this against the private sector, Flint said. If a particular service or operation is not cost-effective then forces should look at whether this is something that can be re- engineered to avoid “potential public sector savings going to private sector profits.”

However, Flint clarified that outsourcing did have a place within public sector procurement.

“I’m not against testing the marketplace and making sure that if something can’t be done in-house cost effectively, producing a quality of service – I don’t think it’s all about cost, and certainly officers on the front line wouldn’t say that – it’s about the support they get and the quality of that service.”

Another watchword for outsourcing services is that sometimes costs can be hidden, such as in turnaround times, which means that specification in the contract is very important.

Retaining fleet managers

The conference addresses the most important issues relevant to police fleet, including future innovations that forces must remain abreast of. The 2012 event will focus on driver distraction due to satellite navigation, hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, emissions and the prominent debate of outsourcing versus internal collaboration.

“We always like to be ahead of the game,” he said, and explained that the most controversial topic will be outsourcing, which impacts on “everything we do”.

Here the debate becomes fiercely personal, as the very nature of the association is changing from sole membership of police managers to an organisation and conference which is more inclusive of other emergency services and the wider public sector.

Flint said: “We used to have 52 fleet managers, one for each force. Forces have amalgamated

and also outsourced, then they become less and less. It’s a bit of a worry for us about how we continue with our conference and exhibition and the work we do.”

He described the importance of retaining fleet managers to effectively arrange national contracts. In the future, the conference will cover ambulance and fire fleet managers as well as police, to make it cost effective and sustainable in the long-term.

“You need to retain some client interface between – whether it be police or private sector, public sector, whatever it is – the contractor and the operation.”

The police need professionals to provide this interface between the contractors, to look after public sector interests and keep track of costs, he said.

Watch and learn

And while outsourcing is set to continue, caution could benefit those forces who have yet to make the move, especially now that G4S have provided such a high-profile example of the perils of the private sector taking on public sector responsibility.

Flint said: “It’s one of those things where everyone’s picked up the bat and started running, and then suddenly the baton has dropped a bit, a bit like what’s happened with the Olympics with G4S and suddenly people are asking ‘can these people handle something that big?’

“When it comes to security and everything else, we need to be careful what we’re outsourcing.”

He reiterated that it was not outsourcing per se which was problematic, merely resorting to the practice without carefully thinking it through.

“I think it’s probably good that there’s one or two outsourced,” he added. “But maybe we just need to take a respite and watch those

Crossover and collaboration

In the future, the NAPFM conference will become a joint event covering police, fire and ambulance fleets. The new name for the event has not yet been confirmed.

This should reduce costs, while not damaging the quality of event for visitors or exhibitors, due to the many overlapping areas of interest between them.

Commenting on this collaboration, Flint said: “It has changed the dynamic, but I think in a good way, because it’s brought us all closer together. We’ve started talking and sharing ideas and networking.”

The issues faced by emergency services fleet are “pretty much the same”, he explained, with similar challenges and some synergies in types of vehicle. The various fleets can share practical resources, such as fuel and servicing, or ideas and training workshops.

Flint said: “It does work very well and we’ve got some good networks now, some good contacts in the ambulance and fire services that we can ring up and talk to.

“Certainly that encourages it in your own area, because sometimes even in your own county, the fire, police and ambulance services would never talk to each other. You just chip away at little things and what generally happens is from small conversations, big things happen.”

The 2012 NAPFM

Conference and Exhibition is taking place on September 25-26 at the Peterborough Arena.

Richard Flint


public sector executive Jul/Aug 12 | 51

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