A Brief History
Part of the County Durham and Darlington Fire Authority’s service transformation approach was to seek opportunities to generate additional income to help to mitigate the impact of funding reductions over the medium to longer term and it is important that the most suitable governance arrangements were put in place to ensure the long term success of this strategy.
The political and legislative landscape has changed significantly in recent years with legislation being enacted that gives the Combined Fire Authority additional freedoms and flexibilities to provide services to local communities. These new powers do however require that consideration be given to the way services are provided, particularly where the Service is trading to make a profit in the delivery of particular elements of service provision.
Introducing a trading entity enables the Authority to seek to generate additional income in line with regulations and legislation governing trading for local authorities and fire authorities and provides an opportunity to safeguard and create employment during times of reducing central government support.
The Service has provided training to external customers through an Industrial Training Unit (ITU), which primarily provides health and safety related training to local businesses in County Durham and Darlington. The provision of services through the ITU was based on a significant amount of repeat custom and restricted marketing allowing the Service to recover costs without making a surplus.
The Fire Authority has considered the implications of the comprehensive spending review and the financial resources that are likely to be available over the medium to longer term.
The Fire Authority has so far implemented savings options that do not increase risk in local communities, and this approach will continue so long as options can continue to be identified that meet these criteria.
The opportunity to consider trading and generating additional income is in line with the aim of the Service Transformation programme and provides the Service with an opportunity to mitigate staff reductions in future years. The extent of mitigation is ultimately dependent on the success of the trading operations over the medium to longer term.
In considering the options that are available for establishing a trading entity, consideration was also given to whether the Service should simply withdraw from providing external training services which would mean there is no requirement for a trading entity to be established.
Trading Entity – The Options Available
For the purposes of establishing a trading entity, two main options were considered in relation to the legal model that will underpin what the Authority is trying to achieve.
- A Limited Company
- A Community Interest Company (CIC)
In reality, either of the company options set out above provides the legal governance arrangements to enable the Authority to trade legally and to maximise income and generate a surplus.
In 2015, Vital Fire Solutions was created.
Meet the Board
Vital Fire Solutions has been set up with a Board of Directors, 3 Directors represent the Fire and Rescue Service and 3 Directors represent the Combined Fire Authority, to find out more about the Board, please visit Meet the Board.
Vital Fire Solutions is very fortunate to be able to utilise many of the sites and locations of the Fire and Rescue Service, all of which is accurately cost recovered and subject to end of year audit, to view some of the excellent facilities, please visit Our Facilities.