County authorities merge services to save millionsBy Amy Taylor
March 20, 2013
JOINT services between police, the fire service and councillors will start next month in a bid to save money and improve efficiency.
The working arrangement between Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary will begin in April, with the aim of saving more than £4m a year from their combined budgets.
It is believed to be the first joint working arrangement of its kind in the country.
Sharing staff and other resources is set to reduce running costs and protect frontline services during public spending cuts.
Finance, property and procurement are the first three departments to make the change, with ICT, human resources and occupational health set to follow suit.
Hampshire Constabulary already has a joint ICT arrangement with Thames Valley Police, so opportunities are only being explored for ICT mergers between the council and the fire service.
Proposals to merge transport, facilities management, training/learning and development, corporate communications and research departments are also being considered, which could deliver savings of up to £300,000 per year.
The arrangement has been agreed across many of the three organisations’ core functions, allowing them to develop better and well-thought out ways of working, while responding to the cuts in funding from the government and the added pressures on services from an ageing population in a recession.
April will see the three ‘early adopters’ merged, with individual teams of staff working together ahead of the full programme rollout over the next three years.
Leader of the county council, Councillor Ken Thornber, said: “Our three organisations have a strong track record in partnership working and these ‘early adopter’ functions illustrate the early benefits that can be achieved from this successful, established relationship.
"Joint working is vital to creating a sustainable future for all three of our organisations and builds on our individual transformation programmes which, for the county council, has already seen us balance our budget and deliver a significant savings programme.”
Simon Hayes, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, said: “This early progress in combining our property functions in particular has allowed us to begin a significant area of work with the support of our county council colleagues, to review and re-evaluate our built estate which will see a comprehensive strategy developed over the coming months.”
A joint project team comprising senior officers from the three organisations has been developing a business case since 2011.
The phased approach to putting the mergers of each department in place is expected to take between one and three years.