Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) and the Derbyshire Police have formed a limited liability partnership (LLP) which could be used as a blueprint for similar arrangements in other parts of the country.
The LLP is the financial and legal foundation for a new joint fire and police headquarters, which will replace out-dated, increasingly expensive old buildings.
Both the Chief Fire Officer and Chief Constable are keen to ensure that not only will the new headquarters cut costs, it will also herald a new era of cooperation between the two organisations, whilst maintaining distinct service delivery arms.
According to Richard Brunt, (DFRS) Area Manager, there was a “very rational business case” behind the LLP model.
It allowed the police and crime commissioner (PCC) and fire and rescue authority (DFRA) to protect their interests and investments in a scenario where the Police were putting in a bigger share of the money.
DFRA has contributed 34 per cent of the capital stake based on its occupation level of the new building. However fire and police have a 50/50 vote on any decisions concerning the headquarters. The LLP gives each partner registered title to the land and buildings, maintains individual brand identity, and is tax efficient and transparent.
“In an investment sense without the LLP we would be more of a tenant than a partner,” said Brunt.
“The LLP gives us credibility and influence in decision making.”
“From the outset, it has been important to develop and maintain cross-party political support”, said Joy Smith, service lead for the project and Deputy Chief Executive for DFRS. She also recommends jointly sourcing specialist tax and legal advisors.
“Taking time to understand the police perspective was important,” she said, “as was exploring widely potential business opportunities early on to ensure that the LLP is strategic enough to reflect the long term intentions of both parties”.
The other piece of advice to colleagues in other parts of the country who are considering a legal partnership is to put the time and effort in early on to get the vision and governance right. The LLP legal agreement and the key operating principles that were forged between the two partners have been the key reference point through which differences have been resolved.
“One challenge that should not be underestimated is the effort needed to engage employees in the plan.”
The LLP is responsible for awarding all contracts associated with joint police/fire asset development, and maintenance. It can employ staff if required (though it doesn’t do this currently). Smith suggested that such arrangements could provide an alternative to fire and rescue authorities being abolished and fire and rescue services moving under the control of PCCs. It allows both organisations to meet their duties to collaborate, share facilities and services without having to merge as one.
The LLP business plan is estimated to provide efficiencies of approximately £1.5 million a year but it should not be seen as a quick fix to balancing budgets, more a long term plan towards a sustainable future.
The new three storey building, will house 150 fire and 350 police support staff. From the outset, both organisations agreed that rather than have an “east wing and a west wing”, all corresponding police and fire teams would be co-located.
Work is ongoing to bring IT systems together and overcome problems caused by the more stringent national IT security requirements of the Police.
“If there is a major push for public sector organisations to deliver integration of IT, it should be at the forefront before organisations are put together,” said Smith. “If there was a single approach to remove barriers it would be significantly more economical than numerous work rounds undertaken by different services.”
A joint training centre and firing range is a recent addition to the LLP plan. The facilities will allow firefighters and police officers to finesse their emergency response to crisis incidents in line with Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) requirements.
Councillor Steve Marshall Clarke, Chair of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “These two key projects provide opportunities for both organisations to work more closely together and make further efficiencies to close their long term funding gap, whilst maintaining individual brand identity”.