High quality service means fire brigade back-room work to stay with Barnsley Council

Fire chiefs in South Yorkshire will leave a long-standing partnership with Barnsley Council intact, it has been decided, rather than looking for an alternative deal with potential money savings.

By Paul Whitehouse
Tuesday, 25 June, 2019, 11:19
Quality support: Barnsley Council provides administrative services for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

The service is managed by a political body called South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Barnsley Council has provided back-room administrative services since 1986, when South Yorkshire County Council was abolished.

Costs have come down in recent years and members of the fire authority, made up of councillors from across South Yorkshire alongside the Police and Crime Commissioner, have questioned whether they should look for alternative quotes for the work.

However, they have decided to stick with Barnsley Council on the grounds that the arrangement works well, has seen costs fall in recent years and because of the specialised nature of the work any alternative quotes would have to come from other local authorities.

The decision means the arrangement is likely to stay in place until at least 2022, though further work will be done which may see one element of Barnsley Council’s input – conducting internal audits of the service’s finances – investigated further to establish whether any alternative could provide better value.

Members were told the current system of dealing exclusively with Barnsley Council is legally compliant.

Doncaster Councillor Cynthia Ransome told a fire authority meeting: “I feel the large amount of money we are dealing with makes it very important that we do go out to tender.

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“I wonder if we are marking our own homework?”

Her concerns were overruled by members, however, with Coun Charles Hogarth stating: “I think we are getting best value from Barnsley Council. It is not just about money, it is about a good service and I think we would be foolish to go outside. We are getting the best service.”

Sheffield Coun Tony Damms added: “I am quite happy with the way things are working” and warned the process of testing the market could bring costs.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney said he would have concerns at losing the “degree of experience built up in Barnsley over the years.”

“I think you might potentially get someone to do it for less than the current cost but I don’t believe for a moment you would get the same quality,” he said.

The Fire Authority was established in 1986 after the county council, which previously managed the fire service, was disbanded.