Surrey was today named as part of a new ground-breaking nationwide network driving forward public sector innovation and potentially saving millions from the public purse.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles selected Surrey as one of only nine areas involved in the project to transform public services through closer working.
In a speech at the Local Government Association Conference, he said the network provided an opportunity to “break down the barriers”.
It will see Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service join forces to find ways of streamlining operations, sharing more premises and delivering joint safety campaigns as well as looking to link up with Sussex’s emergency services.
On top of moves to transform Surrey’s emergency services, the county’s public sector will also unite to turn round the lives of families most dependent on support through closer working between social care, health and other services and helping more people cope with dementia in their communities.
Other areas Surrey will focus on as part of the government’s Public Services Transformation Network include helping young people get the right education, training and employment through initiatives with employers and colleges and ensuring the best possible use of the county’s public buildings and land.
Surrey Police Chief Constable Lynne Owens said: “This initiative will enable us to build on the close relationships we have already with the county’s other emergency services. By exploring in more detail how we work together we aim to improve performance, respond to the changing pattern of demand and reduce costs by removing overlaps between the services.
“Surrey Police has already seen the benefits of collaborative working through our joint command with Sussex Police and in the current economic climate, the public sector needs to embrace any opportunities to reduce costs without compromising on the level of service we deliver to keep people safe and be there when they need us.”
Kevin Hurley, Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, said: “The long-term vision for policing must be for a reduced number of forces and closer collaboration with other emergency services. As we work towards that goal, any opportunity to find better, cheaper ways to deliver for the public is to be welcomed and explored. I look forward to participating fully in this local Surrey initiative.”
Chair of the NHS East Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Joe McGilligan, who is also the joint chair of Surrey’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “This is great news as it will lead to public services in Surrey finding smarter ways of working together. We’re already doing great work in partnership with local government as a result of the health service reforms and this gives us further freedom to drive forward innovative ideas in the interests of Surrey’s residents.”
Surrey County Council Leader David Hodge said: “The public sector should be seen as a single team co-operating to save taxpayers money wherever possible. This gives us added impetus to build on the work we’re already doing together to find new and innovative ways to deliver high-quality services and further improve the excellent life-saving service our firefighters provide*.”
The government revealed plans for a public service transformation network in March and today announced the areas chosen, including Surrey. A press release is on the Department for Communities and Local Government website.
* Surrey County Council performs the role of local fire authority.