Policing minister Damian Green has called for ‘blue light’ services to collaborate more and share services, such as IT, to cut costs and improve operations.
To support collaboration efforts, Green also announced the availability of £20 million for this financial year. This is a “precursor” to the £50 million-a-year Police Innovation Fund due to be set up in 2014 that the government has previously announced to help drive greater integration of local emergency services.
“It doesn’t make sense for all the emergency services to have different premises, different back offices, different IT policies and different procurement policies, when their work is so closely related,” Green told the Blue Light Innovation conference this week.
“Like all public services, there is a need to consider how future resources can be best used and how delivery can be improved for the public. I believe [...] that this improvement is best delivered by deeper and more ambitious joint working between the blue light services."
He added: “It makes financial, and crucially, operational sense, as there is much more that binds you together than separates you.”
Green highlighted how the fire service, police force and county council in Hampshire are expecting to achieve a £4 million a year saving by joining up corporate services.
Meanwhile, a joint police and fire command and control centre is about to be built in Merseyside.
In addition to the Police Innovation Fund, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced £75 million in funding, for 2015-16, to support transformation in the fire service.
“That adds up to a total of £195 million over three years that is open to the blue light services to bid to take forward joint working to save money and deliver improved services for the public,” said Green.
Details on the bidding process and criteria for the police innovation fund will be set out shortly and Green said that bids should be “ambitious” and deliver “real transformation”.
Collaborating via mobile
Green said that a key area for interoperability between the emergency services is mobile communication.
The government is running an Emergency Services Mobile Communications programme that aims to reduce the cost of delivering communication services, and improve them. The current cost is estimated to be £300 million centrally and £100 million spent locally, which could be cut if there was some consolidation, Green said.
He added that mobile services could also be bettered by making broadband a core service.
“I want to encourage you, as emergency services professionals, to challenge how your processes can change as a result of mobile technology, rather than to merely apply the technology to existing processes,” said Green.
“This should be about re-engineering the whole systems that will deliver better benefits from mobile communications technology.”