Cleveland Fire Brigade mutual spin-out backed by £95,000 from government

Money will come from the Mutuals Support Programme as the service seeks to use its specialist knowledge to grow its income

Cleveland Fire Brigade’s plans to become a mutual will get £95,000 of support from the government’s £10m Mutuals Support Programme, the Cabinet Office announced today.

The fire service plans to become an independent, employee-owned business that will provide fire and rescue services under contract to the local fire authority. The service employs about 700 people and would be likely to have a contract of about £31m.

The fire brigade said it was considering mutualisation when last month it launched a community interest company to sell services to local businesses to subsidise its public work.

Ian Hayton, chief fire officer of the brigade, said that an assessment of the potential issues and obstacles around a spin-out would conclude at the end of the financial year. A final decision would be taken by the local fire authority after a public consultation.

"We’ve already spoken to government departments about the necessary changes in legislation that would allow a fire brigade to spin out, and we’ve put those findings to the fire authority, which is comfortable with it," Hayton said. "It won’t be as if a 200-page document will land on its desk and it will be the first it’s heard of it."

Hayton said he believed that an independent fire service could have much more flexibility to grow its income. "We think that contracts with, for example, local petrochemical companies could be multi-million," he said. "We think we have specialist knowledge we can use."

The brigade will receive support from the business support firm PwC, together with Baxi Partnership, a specialist consultancy in employee ownership, and Capsticks solicitors.

The Mutuals Support Programme is a £10m fund to buy support for spin-outs. The fund has awarded six other contracts worth about £273,000 to a mixture of specialist consultancies, accountants and sector law firms.

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