Lothian and Borders Police invited tenders for a £70,000 contract to provide sandwiches for the force, giving details of the length and flavours they were willing to accept.
It can be described in just three words: sandwich, crisps, drink. Or to put it even more succinctly, a packed lunch.
But with the addition of a heavy helping of red tape, a police force managed to stretch the description to 45 pages in a 10,000-word tendering document for catering firms supplying snacks to beat officers.
Business leaders described the bureaucracy involved in procuring the packed lunches as “bonkers”.
Lothian and Borders Police in Scotland published the “invitation to tender” in October, setting out the precise requirements for sandwiches, crisps and bottles of water in lunchboxes for officers on duty at football matches in Edinburgh.
The force, which has up to £70,000 to spend on just 7,500 packed lunches per year, specifies that officers will require a baguette measuring 11 inches long, and containing one of 17 different fillings set out in a separate spreadsheet, which include brie and cranberry, smoked salmon and cream cheese and prawn mayonnaise.
It adds that 75 per cent of the baguettes must be made from white bread and 25 per cent from brown, and filled to “the standard size and weight stipulated by the British Sandwich Association”.
Crisps must be Walker’s, Mackie’s or “equivalent” and each packet must contain “no less than 34.5 grammes of product within the bag”.
As for the water bottles, they must contain “no less than 500ml of still or carbonated spring water” which must be “supplied from Scottish wells and springs and have been bottled in Scotland”.
Other sections of the document cover health and safety rules, requirements for environmentally-friendly packaging, compliance with anti-discrimination and anti-bribery laws, as well as a host of financial and legal clauses.
Caterers wanting to bid for the contract were given less than a month to submit a fully-compliant application.
Andrew Cave of the Federation of Small Businesses said burdening suppliers with such “onerous requirements” excluded many local businesses from bidding for public sector contracts because “they simply don’t have the time to go through all this”.
He added: “It’s counter-productive to the local economy because in the end these contracts go to big companies that can afford to employ people whose job is just to go through all these tenders and put in bids. It’s bonkers.”
Despite the Lothian and Borders tender document emphasising the need for “local sourcing and distribution”, the contract ended up going to a firm in Glasgow, 45 miles away.
A spokesman for the police force said the contract was subject to a final review of spending, adding: “The number of sandwiches provided would be dependent on…the number of officers deployed.”
The force said police on crowd control duty at the grounds of Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian football clubs and at the Murrayfield rugby ground are entitled to a free meal.
The rigid rules on sandwich-making are, however, likely to meet with the approval of officers who were on duty during the riots in August.
On Tuesday The Daily Telegraph reported that officers had complained “in vast numbers” about the choice of sandwich fillings in the snacks they were given, and in particular moaning that tuna, chicken and egg had a limited shelf life and exposed them to the risk of food poisoning.