Fire service makes play for defence contractBy Amy Taylor
February 25, 2013
A LUCRATIVE Defence contract could be in the offing for Hampshire Fire & Rescue service, after the authority agreed to allow firemen to sell their skills to plug a cash shortfall.
The authority approved the launch of a commercial arm before announcing a strategic partnership with Serco, a government services company based in Hook, on February 19.
If their bid is successful, the fire service could benefit from a multi-million pound Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract likely to shortly come to the market and Serco would take on responsibility for up to 2,000 MoD employees.
Mark Rayner, an area manager for the fire service, said the partnership signalled their intention to bid for profit-making business.
“We are fire and risk experts, and we needed a partner that has commercial experience, with the size and power behind it to bid for large contracts,” he said.
“The first opportunity is the Defence Fire Risk and Management Organisation (DFRMO).”
Until a decision has been made, and the contract is released by the MoD in March or April, Mr Rayner said figures on how much profit the fire service would reap as a result are unclear, but the current operating budget of the DFRMO is between £90m and £110m per year.
Mr Rayner said: “Obviously the MoD will be looking to reduce that cost, but they have to make it interesting enough for public or private sector partners. There has to be enough left in it to be a profitable contract.”
He said that responsibility for the current DFRMO workforce would fall to Serco, as the prime contractor in the strategic partnership, which is standard practice when outsourcing part of a service.
“It would effectively transfer the staff across," he said. “We won’t be moving Hampshire fireman onto MoD contracts, we will be bringing our experience and knowledge to make a more efficient DFRMO operating model.”
Once agreed, the outsourcing of DFRMO’s services could be running by 2014.
“After that, the first target we will hit will be simply to be in profit – that's not a flippant answer, because that is a challenge," he added.
DFRMO currently provides fire risk management to MoD sites and operations, both in the UK and overseas.
Simon Pilling, managing director for Serco’s defence team, said: “We are delighted to be able to work in partnership with one of the most respected and high performing fire and rescue services in the UK.
“Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority is a proactive and highly efficient organisation that, like us, has strong values and is committed to excellent service delivery.”