Fire alliance will bring financial savings

The county’s fire alliance will eventually bring cash savings, but only after an initial “investment phase”, the chief has said.

The fire authority discussed savings from its alliance
The fire authority discussed savings from its alliance

Shropshire's and Hereford and Worcester’s fire and rescue services completed a deal in 2018 with the primary aim of “enhancing the capacity and resilience” of both.

A report by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service transformation and collaboration head Guy Williams said the alliance revolves around fire control, IT, procurement and risk management, and updated the governing body on its progress.

Fire authority member Kuldip Sahota asked whether the brigade could “quantify financial savings”.

Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton said it would eventually be able to, and had already improved capacity and resilience.

Mr Williams told the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority the alliance was “progressing at a sustainable pace”, but added some areas had been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Sahota thanked Mr Williams for his update and said he supports the alliance, but asked: “Is there any way we can quantify financial savings?

“Perhaps not exactly right now, but will we be able to say ‘this alliance has saved us half a million, a million, or whatever’?”

Officer Hammerton said: “I’ll answer the question in a slightly oblique fashion, which is just to remind ourselves – as I have found myself doing – that the initial objective of the alliance was not to create financial savings. That was to create capacity and resilience for both organisations, although we always anticipate there will be savings in due course.

“So, to directly answer: Yes, I would expect us to be able to demonstrate where savings have arisen.

Efficiencies

“However, before we get to that point, I would also feel the need to show where we’ve had to make investment.”

He said IT was an example of where collaboration brought benefits.

“We’re a £20 million organisation, and it’s very difficult for a £20 million organisation to invest very heavily in IT, particularly in people,” he said.

“However, working together with Hereford and Worcester, we can work like a £50 million organisation.

“We can have an IT department 35 or 40 people strong, as opposed to 15 or 20 people.

“There will be an element of investment before we get to the point of reaping the financial dividend, but while that investment is made we will be creating that capacity and resilience.”

Vice-chairman Chris Mellings – who, along with chairman Eric Carter and their Hereford and Worcester counterparts, sits on the alliance board – said: “If we just get into a simple opportunity for saving money, I think experience has shown we’re almost on a hiding to nothing. We’ve got to do both.

“It’s about non-cashable efficiencies as well.”

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