In its first annual report launched October, 2013 the National Issues Committee (NIC), set up to optimise collaborative working across the three fire and rescue service in Wales, announced that efficiencies to date amount to just over £3.1 million to be realised over the next five years.
And this is in addition to the savings generated by each of the three authorities through their individual budget setting processes.
The NIC’s report describes its achievements since it was established last year and how it is taking the fire and rescue services forward in their objective of working together for a safer Wales, rising to the challenge of further improving collaborative working to achieve financial savings without compromising on levels of service.
The first year has focused on laying firm foundations on which to build successful collaboration, setting a clear direction and long term aims, and building close collaborative relationships with recognised partners.
NIC Chairperson, Councillor Tudor Davies, Chairperson South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “It’s not just financial savings that our collaborative working is bringing – we are communicating better on wider issues concerning public safety such as in the way we deliver home fire safety checks and adopt robust business continuity arrangements
“This first year has been challenging, whilst providing exciting opportunities to work closer together with key stakeholders. Building trust and closer working relationships provide all concerned with wider opportunities to learn from each other and share innovative ideas on how to deliver a fire and rescue service for the future.
“The three Welsh fire and rescue services are determined to work together and to establish a team effort in driving forward the Welsh Government’s public service improvement agenda. Our priority is to further improve collaborative working, service delivery and sustained service improvement for the benefit of Wales.”
A review of each fire and rescue authority’s baseline position against key collaborative areas has been critical in identifying the opportunities for improvement and efficiencies and in measuring success, and has enabled the NIC to prioritise its future collaborative work streams.
The six key collaborative areas include National Control Arrangements, Effective Resilience for Large-Scale Emergencies, National Collaborative Procurement, National Training and Development Functions, National Human Resources Functions, and Common and Specialist Services.
Each one of the areas is developed against an all Wales plan which details opportunities for collaboration and efficiency, deliverable short and medium to long-term objectives and outcomes, and the measurement of outcomes utilising Results Based Accountability (RBA).
Richard Smith, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There is clear evidence of not only the progress and achievements we’ve made in terms of efficiencies and savings, but also the challenges and lessons we’ve learned along the way and how we intend to move forward.”
This was further endorsed by the Chief Fire Officer of North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Simon Smith: “All the partners are committed to collaboration and authority members from differing political backgrounds have proved that they can work together for a common good across Wales. There is also a shared understanding that effective collaboration needs to be demonstrated in order to deliver against the demands facing the fire and rescue services now and in the future.”
The priority for the NIC now is to continue to evolve and grow and make the necessary changes in order to deliver its vision.
Huw Jakeway, Chief Fire Officer from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, explained: “We will be prioritising our common and specialist services areas in order to maximise outcomes in terms of efficiencies and improved service delivery. New areas that have the greatest potential to deliver significant efficiencies and improvements have been identified and these will form the basis of the future forward work programme for the coming year.”