A major collaboration programme aimed at protecting front line emergency services has been given the thumbs up by Cheshire’s fire and police chiefs.
The ambitious plans involve bringing together most of the back office and professional services which support Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and Cheshire Constabulary and establishing a single, shared headquarters site by April 2018.
It is estimated that the programme will produce combined annual savings of nearly £1.5 million and help to minimise the impacts of the significant financial challenges on frontline services.
The approval in principle was made today (Wednesday 9th December) at separate meetings held by Cheshire Fire Authority and the Police & Crime Commissioner. Both sides have stressed, however, that there will be no merger of frontline services, with each organisation keeping their separate brand, identity and management arrangements.
“This is an ambitious and challenging programme but it is one which we all believe offers us the best chance of continuing to protect and improve the safety of the communities we serve,” said Fire Authority Chair Cllr. John Joyce.
“Working together like this means we can minimise the impact of the cuts all public services are facing. We will be working closely with staff and trade unions to manage the process of bringing teams together as sensitively as we can between now and April 2018, when it is expected that our back office and the majority of professional services are entirely shared.
“Ultimately there will be more resilient support services with improved career prospects for many employees in a larger organisation.”
Police & Crime Commissioner John Dwyer said: “It’s clear to me that this innovative and pioneering partnership will have enormous benefits for both public services, while enabling us to maintain our distinct and celebrated identities and frontline services.
“Financially the collaboration will enable us to focus public money on those areas where Cheshire residents want it spent – on frontline services, protecting our communities. It will enable us to maintain specialist back office support that separately we could not justify, bringing additional benefits to both organisations.
“Symbolically, bringing both command teams together under one roof at Clemonds Hey will have real benefits for the way both organisations work. We will learn from each other, and more importantly, it will help us to work more closely together, which, as we saw from the Bosley tragedy, is incredibly important.”
The new joint headquarters at Clemonds Hey will be jointly developed to ensure that the look and feel reflects the cultures of combined teams and encourages closer working between individuals and organisations.
The total costs of the collaboration and setting up the joint headquarters at Clemonds Hey are estimated at £6.6m, however, nearly half of the cost could be met if a bid for Government funding proves successful. Annual savings are expected to be at least £1.465m.
While the North West Ambulance Service has been involved in the blue light discussions, its regional structure means talks are focussing on areas such as shared premises rather than joint support teams.