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Fire services recommend closer collaboration

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Each service has recently agreed their budgets up to the financial year 2016/17, which include reduced spending.

As part of planning for the future, Project Arrow has sought to respond to challenges that will be faced beyond 2017, particularly linked to the anticipated continuation of tight financial conditions.

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and Warwickshire FRS already collaborate in a number of areas, including supporting each other during periods of exceptional high demand or simultaneous major incidents.

Project Arrow looked at a range of options for closer working relations in the future, from no change right through to combining into one fire and rescue service.

The findings recommend an approach where the services commit to developing an operational collaboration. This will see the alignment of processes and policies in a number of operational areas, possibly including the likes of fire safety, health and safety, technical support and training and development. Consideration of greater integration in the future will also be considered.

Both fire authorities considered the proposals this week* at their respective meetings and agreed to the recommendations.

An interim report will be submitted to both fire authorities in the summer of 2015 detailing progress made, with a final report submitted by late 2015.

Councillor Derek Prodger, Chair of Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority, said: "Project Arrow is about continually improving our working relationship to ensure we share our expertise, skills and experience to secure the future of our fire services. It's about quality of service, improving resilience and reducing costs wherever possible.

"Although it is probably some time away, the more we align our practices now, the better we will be at working together if or when any closer collaboration occurs."

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: "We should herald Project Arrow as the start of a better way for both services to work; its early stages, which we are discussing now, will establish how the fire services of both Warwickshire and of Hereford and Worcester can help the other to be stronger and more resilient without compromising their own capacities.

"Whilst this is very much a project for the future and will address challenges that we will face beyond 2017 it is absolutely right that we should look right now at ways that fire services can share processes and policies to enable us to gain the benefits that working together can potentially bring."

* The Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority meeting took place on 10th December and the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Authority meeting took place on 9th December 2014.