Good progress on police and fire link up in South Yorkshire as schemes come under scrutiny

Police chiefs will have to produce “robust” business cases in South Yorkshire where they want to collaborate with other agencies on projects intended to benefit both parties.

By Paul Whitehouse
Thursday, 4th April 2019, 4:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th April 2019, 4:19 pm
Dr Alan Billings
Dr Alan Billings

Public sector organisations have been encouraged to work together in recent years and South Yorkshire Police has become deeply immersed in such work, though the outcomes have been mixed.

Close working with the county’s fire and rescue service is being credited with bringing improvements and cash savings in areas such as their vehicle fleets, which are now being treated as one entity.

The two organisations’ buildings portfolios have also been welded together in a move expected to bring greater efficiency and effectiveness through sharing premises, such as a joint police and fire station developed at Maltby in Rotherham, and other savings.

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But not all have worked so well, with the force detaching itself from projects such as a joint mounted section alongside the West Yorkshire force, which saw horses stabled in Wakefield rather than Ring Farm at Cudworth for some time.

That never fulfilled its potential and South Yorkshire’s horses have been returned to their traditional homes.

Closer working with the Humberside force, instigated some years ago, is also being untangled because it is seen as no longer providing advantages.

Members of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, a watchdog body which holds Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings to account, were told future collaborations would go ahead only if they could be justified.

His chief executive, Michelle Buttery, told panel members: “We have seen nationally since 2010 that a number of forces have collaborated with each other and other emergency services.

“We have also seen where collaborations have pulled apart because they are not working or not delivering the savings anticipated.

“Future collaborations have to have a robust business case before they can be signed off. A collaboration review board is in place with South Yorkshire Police.

“Both efficiency and effectiveness are looked at.”

Dr Billings said collaborations could also have a limited lifespan: “Just because you are collaborating with someone now doesn’t mean you always will be.

“The collaboration with the fire service has made rapid progress. There are lots of things we can point to which show what has happened as a result of collaboration. One simple example is bring the two (vehicle) fleets together,” he said.