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PM: Streamlined IT crucial in delivering the ‘smarter state’

Police and Crime Commissioners to take on Fire and Rescue responsibilities.

In support of the Prime Minister's post-election vision for a 'smarter state', a package of measures was announced recently, ahead of the government's upcoming Spending Review. Technology features heavily in the reforms; given the power it has to drive efficiency throughout the provision of UK public services.

The most relevant reform for members of techUK's Justice & Emergency Services Group, is the proposed expansion of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Remits (and the London Mayor) to include fire and rescue services. In line with the desire to streamline services, the government will also introduce legislation to enable the emergency services to combine back-office functions, IT and procurement, in order to deliver cost savings.

The measures appear to build on the successful pilot of the Strategic Alliance between the Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Here, the three forces have agreed to progress proposals for collaboration of their Force Control Rooms. Members had the chance to hear from David Lloyd, PCC for Hertfordshire at a techUK forum focused on cross-service collaboration in emergency response, alongside other representatives from service providers and the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP). Echoing this trend was also the decision taken by the Metropolitan Police to outsource its IT to a shared services centre.

The government will now undergo an open consultation on the following proposals:

  • The introduction of a new statutory duty on all three emergency service providers to look at opportunities to collaborate better in order to drive efficiency and ensure quality.
  • Where local cases are made, PCCs will assume the duties and responsibilities of fire and rescue authorities (FRAs).
  • When a PCC expands its remit to fire and rescue they will be allowed to create a single employer for police and fire staff to streamline management through shared services.
  • The abolition of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and assignment to the Mayor or London the direct responsibility for the fire and rescue service in London, as will be the case for the new Mayor of Greater Manchester.
  • Encouragement of NHS ambulance foundation trusts to consider PCC representation on their councils of governors.

techUK is wholly supportive of this efficiency drive, and has continually pushed for the creation of a single criminal justice and emergency services strategy. Looking at the end-to-end needs of the system, as a whole - as opposed to the constituent parts - will save money, prevent duplication and provide clarity for suppliers. For Government this will enable greater availability of data and yield operational and organisational innovation and efficiencies. This is referenced in techUK Manifesto for growth and jobs 2015-2020.

Whilst the pooling of resources can deliver efficiencies, the government must remain cautious in the manner in which it merges services to avoid confusion for the wider public and end-users. It must also consider utilising the savings derived effectively and recognise the potential that investment in technology can yield for the operation of the emergency services.


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