Steve Botham shares his experiences as fleet and services manager for Wiltshire Police with Public Sector Fleet Manager.
The role covers all the services that a Police Force needs, from selecting vehicles, maintaining them and disposal at the end of their operational life to providing uniform items and printing - in fact everything the Police use and need.
What does a typical day consist of as fleet & services manager for Wiltshire Constabulary?
Owing to being a Police Force you never know what the day will bring, could be a murder, missing person, floods, riots and whatever the Force has been doing overnight or weekend. If any incident is major then the phone will ring at home as I’m on call all of the time, I have even taken calls in Tunisia when on leave, that said the systems in place for such events are well used and my next in line covers when I’m not available.
My working day usually begins at 8.30am and the first thing to do is log on to the Force systems and check my e-mails, if there has been any incidents or accidents overnight then there will be e-mails or forms to check.
A quick check on the workshops and stores to make sure everything is on course then onto dealing with the outstanding e-mails and reports. I deal with a lot of Freedom of Information requests from the public and the media on vehicles and who’s using them and how much they cost etc. The reports I need to write and read are quite unrelenting and can range from quarterly returns and performance figures to applications for additional vehicles, uniform requests, and printing requests to personal development reviews.
Part of my day is spent planning for forthcoming events within the Force including the replacement programme of vehicles and their specification along with signing off the disposal of assets.
Of course, there are also the many usual meetings that can be off-site at any of the Force Police Stations, Headquarters or at the Home Office in London.
What are the biggest issues and challenges currently facing your department?
One of the challenges that face my departments is the funding of the budgets and the fact that the Force has had to save 15 million pounds over four years with another Government spending review just around the corner. Owing to the vehicle replacement budget being one of the largest spends within the Force it is constantly under review and has had to take its share of the budget cuts. Other issues are collaborative arrangement with the Police region (Five other Forces) and the local Council trying to find better ways of working together to reduce cost.
How much does technology affect your role?
Technology plays a major part in the Police world and in some of the vehicles we have fitted complete data terminals that can do anything a desk-mounted computer can do. These vehicles also have the ability to PNC (Police National Computer) check a vehicle and its occupants, speed enforcement and track stolen vehicles.
All the Force vehicles are satellite tracked for location and future developments to this system will enable vehicles to be tasked by control room who will know the driver and their ability in terms of their training.
Do you work with other police forces to procure vehicles or use any framework agreements?
Wiltshire works closely within the South West Region (which consists of five Forces) and have a Regional Transport Board to drive collaboration initiatives through. Also the region has a South West Procurement Unit that produces regional contracts that we all use. These supplement the national framework agreements and, in some cases, complete the legal requirement to mini tender within the national frameworks.
What types of vehicles are you running on the fleet and why?
In order to answer this question I need to explain the make up of the fleet. Wiltshire closely follows the national recommended ‘make up’ of the fleet in terms Low Performance, Intermediate Performance and High Performance.
The National Association of Police Fleet Managers set up these parameters along with several other parameters to enable vehicles to be nationally ‘Fit for Purpose’ and with unique Police Specifications. These specifications were then tendered for in Europe by the Home Office and the results are a selection of manufactures that could provide a ‘Police Specification Vehicle’ in there respective classes.
A mini tender by the region then provides the best or preferred option of make and model. In terms of Wiltshire the low performance vehicle is Vauxhall Corsa and this is used as a General Purpose Vehicle (GPV) for Neighborhood Police Teams, some CID units etc. The Vauxhall Astra Tourer 130ps is used for the Intermediate class along with the Vauxhall Insignia for certain functions within the intermediate performance class. In the High Performance class Wiltshire use BMW 530 Saloon and Estates as well as Volvo V70 Police Specials. The lightweight 4x4 section are made up of Vauxhall Antara and Honda CRV. Honda is used quite a lot in other classes as, in principal, Wiltshire likes to support the Honda Factory in Swindon. The vans used by Wiltshire are all Mercedes-Benz consisting of Vito for prison handling and Sprinter for all else except Riot Personnel Carriers (PSU) where Iveco Daily is the base vehicle owing to the weight capacity needed.
Do you have or are you looking to implement EVs on the fleet?
Wiltshire in the passed has run several hybrid vehicles, mainly Honda Civic and Lexus with some success but owing to the emergency operations the fuel consumption and performance was not quite what the Force required and so defeated the additional cost of purchase. Wiltshire has tried the full electric vehicle but the range and cost have proved not to be competitive with traditional diesel vehicles. Wiltshire has always been concerned about the environment and has since 2000 pioneered the use of bio-diesel before it became commercially available and was the first Police fleet in the country to use bio-diesel.
How you use services from other companies to help run a smooth fleet operation?
The use of ‘other companies’ is mainly in specialist areas are invaluable as we neither have the resources or infrastructure to compete with their specialist work. The repair of body damage is a good example and we contract that out to the specialist as the cost of operating a body repair shop would be cost prohibit.
What geographical challenges face the constabulary fleet?
The only geographical challenge that Wiltshire has is that a large proportion of the county is an Army training ground with some a major army camps. This Army presence has a knock-on effect in some of the towns and villages close by the camps which increases the Police work quite considerably.
What is your involvement with NAPFM?
The NAPFM was started in Wiltshire in 1986 and originated from a meeting of Fleet Engineers started by Wiltshire in 1973 and continued until the formation of NAPFM in 1986. I have been involved since 1987 and have been the Event Manager for NAPFM since that date. I organise the annual Conference and Exhibition which now covers all the Emergency Services and is the largest exhibition of its type in Europe. During my time with NAPFM, I was Chairman for four years along with various roles within the executive committee and still serve on some of the committees including Procurement and Technical, I have been involved in all of the national contracts since the first one let by the Home Office, these include Vehicle Purchase, Tyres, Glass (Windscreens etc), Oil, Fuel Cards and Disposals.
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
When any officer whatever rank or civilian says thanks Steve you have done a good job, couldn’t have done it without you.
…and what is the most frustrating?
The Police Service at times is frustrating in its self in many ways, it can have knee jerk reactions to many things but it can also be painfully slow in other ways. Things that are needed or changed would just be ‘done’ in the retail world, where in the service it can take months with copious reports and costing, the chain of authority can be long and unwieldy in some cases.