Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and Dorset Fire and Rescue Service have been exploring the potential for future joint working in many areas to reduce costs, meet the government grant reductions, improve resilience and the quality of service for the public.

Both fire and rescue services have a successful history of collaboration as neighbours and as part of the wider South West region. Effective collaboration is undoubtedly aided by the fact that both services are combined fire authorities and share similar values.

Discussions between the two services have shown there to be many ways, without combining, that savings can be generated and resilience improved.

To ensure the governance of this new working relationship, a joint Political Overview Board has been established. The membership of the board will include two members from each authority, the two authority chairmen, the chief fire officers and an authority clerk.

Chairman of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Mark Healey is enthused about the future prospects for the joint working. He told FIRE: "We are breaking new territory here within the Fire and Rescue Service nationally. I believe this is the first time two services have agreed to work together at such a strategic level with the aim of realising the many benefits that can be achieved."

Supporting Councillor Healey's comments, Chairman of the Dorset Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Chris Bulteel said: "Initial discussions have shown that this will be an alternative approach which could generate savings and improve resilience, something I fully support. The Overview Board will ensure that the review is running as planned and will endeavour to deliver the benefits identified."

Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, is encouraged by the initial review work that has taken place. He said: "Many benefits can be achieved without the political upheaval, increases in council tax or associated costs with rebranding that a full merger of the organisations generate. The focus on the work has been the looking at how our senior management teams can work more closely to lessening any negative impact on front line service delivery. The ultimate aim will be for the teams to be working closely together and sharing officers' skills and expertise."

At present both management teams from their respective services will be working to jointly review the future prospects. Darran Gunter, Chief Fire Officer for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service stresses the importance of clarity as to how this will work and progress. "Both fire and rescue authorities have agreed to the management teams working together, but devolved powers remain the same. I will still be Chief Fire Officer of Dorset and likewise for Lee in Devon and Somerset. Both Lee and I will work closely together in order to agree, deliver and monitor a consistent strategic direction."

Amongst other things the Board will:

  • Consider and determine the impact of emerging change in public policy and spending in relation to the direction of the joint review
  • Provide direction to the chief fire officer of both services in relation to the joint review
  • To approve the scope and deliverables of the joint review
  • Monitor the progress of the joint review
  • To determining the mix of options and business cases
  • To approve programme updates that could be considered by both authorities
  • To approve a communications strategy.


 Posted: 14.07pm, 07.03.11