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Hampshire fire service looks to sell expertise for cash

SKILLS Firefighters inside Portsmouth Guildhall during a training drill

SKILLS Firefighters inside Portsmouth Guildhall during a training drill

 

FIREFIGHTERS are looking to sell their services to make up a shortfall in money from the government.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority (HFRA) is considering establishing a limited company to allow it to generate cash by selling the service’s expertise.

The force is expecting to see cuts in government funding over the next four years.

Among the services the new company would consider offering are providing training, risk analysis, equipment maintenance and testing, and the use of fire service premises.

And a report to go before the HFRA’s finance committee tomorrow calculates that it could bring in up to £1m a year by its third year.

Nigel McCullen, chairman of the Hampshire Fire Brigade Union, said: ‘It’s early days for this yet, and there’s a lot of detail that needs fleshing out on what exactly it would mean for the service and our members.

‘But we will be keeping a close eye on it and will be talking to them if necessary.’

The authority would not be allowed to perform any of its core functions – which include firefighting, promoting fire safety, responding to road accidents, as well as tackling chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards – on a trading basis.

The company would be run as a mutual organisation and remain wholly owned by the HFRA.

A fire officer, who did not want to be named said: ‘We used to do something like this in the past, and it was a thriving department, but the government changed the rules and said we couldn’t unless we became a trading company.

‘I don’t think it would be a problem for us, but it does depend on how it’s sold.

‘It wouldn’t mean us diversifying in terms of what we already do or taking other people’s jobs.

‘And if it means we’re training organisations in what we want them to do if there is an emergency, then that will make my job a lot easier.’

A handful of other brigades, including Devon and Somerset, Essex and Lancashire and West Midlands have already started similar companies.

A charging policy has not yet been created. Initial set-up costs, including officer time and legal services, would be met by existing resources.

 

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