It makes perfect sense for Portsmouth and Southampton to work together in preparation for terror attacks and other emergencies.
While a unified south coast supercouncil has been mooted many times, its implementation and roles would be far less straightforward than working together on the single issue of planning for a civic emergency – whether it be a natural disaster, gas leak, or a strike by terrorists.
The benefits of a joint approach are clear – a larger pool of staff with shared resources which could be better mobilised to safeguard strategic sites such as Portsmouth Naval Base or Southampton Docks.
Emergency services are regularly drilled in how to cope with a major incident, and it is vital that they are well-prepared while Britain remains on high alert for attack.
Portsmouth City Council’s report on the proposal advises that a unified approach with Southampton would enable both local authorities and wider communities to ‘prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies effectively.’
The fear is, of course that, as we have seen in both private and public services, that centralisation is seen as an opportunity to make savings and attendant cuts.
The council report is quick to reassure that this will not be the case: No job losses, and, significantly, an increase of resources within the joint team.
A matter not so clear, and which we will be seeking answers on, is the issue of funding.
The report talks about the team ‘pursuing new income generation opportunities’ which rings alarm bells and raises many questions.
It adds: ‘The associated increase in staff costs will be offset by an increase in team income, rendering the proposal cost neutral.’
The basic idea of working together to plan for the worst is a good one.
You can’t put a price on saving lives, so funding should not be an issue.