Scottish police and fire mergers 'highlight the benefits of shared services'
Shared services in the public sector is slowly taking off, but there is still a way to go before governments and local authorities are convinced of the true benefits.
Yet according to one procurement specialist, the advantages are easily demonstrated by the upcoming police and fire mergers in Scotland, which are set to achieve significant cash savings.
Writing in the Guardian newspaper, public sector consultant Colin Cram, former Director of the North West Centre of Excellence, said the decision to create single police and fire services north of the border should dispel any doubts public bodies have about shared services and procurement.
He noted that Scotland already has the most "integrated" public sector procurement system in Great Britain, with police forces able to access an e-procurement system that highlights the best deals available to them. This is already resulting in savings.
By scrapping regional forces and replacing them with the Police Service of Scotland, an additional £30m a year could be wiped off police expenditure and used in other areas.
"England has only just introduced the e-procurement hub system that was pioneered by Scottish police forces and it is reasonable to argue that the lower level of collaboration in England means potential procurement savings from a joint police force should be at least broadly proportionate," Mr Cram remarked. He said that if Scotland's police and fire mergers do deliver the savings promised, it is likely that pressure for a similar review of emergency services in England will increase.
"A single procurement organisation, perhaps with regional centres, would be able to engage effectively with industry on behalf of all and introduce some relatively sophisticated techniques," the consultant stated.
Scotland's new single police service is due to begin operating on April 1st 2013, replacing eight existing regional forces.