Police forces around Britain are expected to downscale
their use of leasing following political pressures and efficiency
reviews. Jason T Hesse


The Metropolitan Police (MPS),
Britain’s largest police force, which spent nearly £50 million (€57
million) in the past five years on vehicle leasing and hire (see
table below), said it would be cutting down on hire.

“Following an internal review instigated last
September, we are seeking to reduce the hire element of our vehicle
fleet. This will allow us to make financial efficiency savings and
also contribute to reducing our carbon footprint,” an MPS
spokesperson said, stressing that there would be “no impact” on the
force’s operational policing capability, however.

Indeed, the MPS recognised that the purpose
for hire vehicles was to fill short-term requirements, largely for
back-office and support functions. The force aims to save around £2
million per year by cutting up to 500 vehicles from its fleet.

John Gorton, head of transport at Essex
Police, and chair of the National Association of Police Fleet
Managers’ Best Value Committee, explained that it was about “better
usage” of existing fleets.

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“What’s happening at the moment – and this is
due to the economic climate – is that the number of hire vehicles
is decreasing rapidly. Forces are getting better at making
available vehicles that are already within their operational
fleet,” Gorton said.

All this follows complaints from the Liberal
Democrats (Lib Dems) that UK police forces are spending too much
money on leasing vehicles. A Freedom of Information Act request
carried by the party revealed that British police forces spent over
£132 million on vehicle leasing and hire between 2004 and 2009,
equivalent to around £70,000 a day. In 2008-09, forces reported
spending £24.6 million in total.

British police forces have responded to the
criticisms by claiming that they have bought, rather than leased,
most of the 38,000 police cars in operation. The Association of
Chief Police Officers (ACPO) estimates that the Lib Dem’s £132
million figure only represents 8 percent of all police transport

They also said the Lib Dem’s attack ignores
the value of leasing.

“Transportation is key in policing, and these
figures reveal nothing about why hire cars may be used and provide
good value for money,” a spokesperson for the ACPO said.

“Obviously marked police vehicles are used
daily, but some aspects of policing – such as covert work – need
unmarked vehicles, and hiring them can be cheaper than owning

But Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne
called the sum “unnecessarily lavish”.

“Hiring cars at appropriate times can save
money, but if they are being hired while police cars are not in
use, it is simply a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Gorton disagrees that there is a major problem
with police forces spending too much on hire, however.

“I don’t think there are any forces out there
that are doing anything out of the ordinary – most forces have a
good understanding and balance of fleet management. With the right
system in place, you can make very, very good use of a good
external hire contract,” he said.

For example, Essex Police has a dedicated
transport website for the force’s officers and staff.

Staff can input details of their journey –
distance, purpose, number of passengers, and so on – to work out
what the most effective method of transport is, be it to use a
fleet vehicle, to hire, or to use their private vehicle and mileage

“It’s about maximising your resources and
making sure that the people at the front-end of your organisation
actually have access to – and understand the costs of – the
different forms of transport,” Gorton said.

South Yorkshire Police, which spent £2.5
million on vehicle leasing and hire between 2004 and 2009, also
defended itself against the Lib Dem attack.

Meredydd Hughes, chief constable of South
Yorkshire Police, said that his force was “proud of the way it uses
the public’s resources”.

“This is a story that isn’t a story,” he said,
adding that hire options were often “more cost effective” than
outright purchase.

VT Group and Automotive Leasing, an arm of
LeasePlan, which lease vehicles to British police forces, both
declined to comment.

Police car spending, top five forces