London's emergency services criticised over shared working

19 October 2011

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19 October 2011 | Angeline Albert 

The lack of progress delivering savings from shared services between the capital’s fire and police services has been described as “baffling” by a London Assembly group.

Speaking at the Budget Monitoring Sub-Committee meeting yesterday, finance officers from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) were quizzed about a lack of significant savings from shared services in relation to first quarter monitoring reports for 2011/12.

Referring to Greater London Authority (GLA) objectives, sub-committee member Gareth Bacon said: “The mayor’s budget adviser talked about big figures that could be saved in shared services. Huge amounts have not been delivered yet and we are baffled by this.”    

Sue Budden, director of finance and contractual services at LFEPA, said: “Some organisations can’t wait for joint contracts to be set up. In terms of scale we are a much smaller organisation than Transport for London (TfL) and it is more expensive for us to adapt to share services.”   

Bacon then asked whether there was “empire protection going on”.

Rita Dexter, deputy commissioner of London Fire Brigade (LFB) said: “It’s not about empire. Take IT services for example – what we receive is high quality, cheap and provides what we need.” She said the IT services provider it uses is integral to getting fire engines out. “We have highly integrated systems for the fire service and extracting some of it is not as feasible as you think,” she added.

Dexter said six or seven fire stations were already sharing services and premises with the London Ambulance Service and another premise was to be shared with the MPS.

In July 2010, Nicholas Griffin, the mayor’s budgets and performance adviser, said the sharing of common services across the GLA ought to yield savings of about 20 per cent of its £2.2 billion annual procurement spend and should be achievable within two years. The mayor’s 2011/12 draft consultation budget indicated total expected savings from shared services was £450 million over two years.

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