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Innovative partnership working has helped save money and reduced local response times, but there is more that can be done.
According to a report by the Auditor General for Wales, emergency services are expected to work even more collaboratively to make better use of resources and maximise impact.
Emergency services in Wales have taken the lead in keeping people and property safe in response to a wide variety of incidents – from severe storms and floods to traffic accidents and fires. Emergency services have been working closely together to provide a better service to the public for many years. Innovative partnership initiatives have saved money and reduced local response times. Over 20,000 people are employed and the budget to run the emergency services in Wales is over £1 billion annually. However, growing expectations from Welsh Government and the requirements of policy and legislation means emergency services are expected to collaborate much more.
The Joint Emergency Services Group (JESG), which brings together senior leaders from ‘blue light’ services, continues to play a key role in coordinating emergency services and the cooperation between JESG members has helped forge closer working relationships. However, the overall scale of joint working has been limited and there are opportunities to share more buildings, co-locate services, make better use of fleet and create more joint posts.
To help drive forward the joint working agenda, a Strategic Collaboration Board has been set up and to identify further opportunities for emergency services to work together. However, the Strategic Collaboration Board’s plans are not sufficiently robust at present as they do not have dedicated resources to drive change forward. Clear priorities still need to be identified in some areas and project work has not yet been fully costed.
We’ve listed recommendations in our report, which intend to help the JESG to maximise opportunities for making better use of resources and protecting Welsh people and their communities. Our recommendations centre around data sharing protocols and training, the review of workstream plans including project management arrangements, and establishing targets to demonstrate value for money. We also recommend that the JESG takes action to promote its past work and future plans.
To help them evaluate their work programmes, we’ve created a data tool [opens in new window] so emergency services can identify where improvements need to be made.
The emergency services have a long history of working collaboratively and they continue to help keep people in Wales safe. Their innovative partnership initiatives have saved money, reduced local response times, and have contributed to protecting the public. Despite this, the growing expectations of public policy and legislation mean they need to work together even more to make better use of their resources and truly maximise their impact.