I should like to inform the House that, in the light of our review of national procurement in the fire and rescue service (FRS) in England, we propose to make a number of changes affecting Firebuy Ltd, the professional buying organisation for the service.
Firebuy Ltd was established as a non-departmental public body on 30 March 2006 to deliver the 2005-08 national procurement strategy for the FRS. Within the current arrangements, Firebuy has been effective in establishing national fire-specific procurement for vehicles and equipment and has delivered benefits for the service.
There is a continuing need to drive procurement efficiency at a national level in the FRS, particularly in the light of targets for collaborative procurement set by the Government’s operational efficiency programme and we believe that a national procurement body represents the best way to deliver fire-specific collaborative procurement. This will be reflected in the revised national procurement strategy, which we intend to publish in July, taking account of responses to the consultation last year and the recommendations of the operational efficiency programme.
However, going forward there is a need to consider the future role and structure of the body delivering FRS national procurement, particularly given that the Department must also make longer term provision for managing ongoing FiReControl and Firelink contracts. We propose, therefore, that Firebuy’s functions should in future be carried out within a larger organisation, integrating national procurement with the management of the service contracts for the Fire And Resilience programme (Firelink, FiReControl and New Dimension). Firebuy already performs this function in respect of New Dimension. More detailed proposals for in-service management of the Fire and Resilience programme will be set out in a consultation paper, which we will publish shortly.
I am grateful to the current chair and board of Firebuy for the work they have done and for agreeing to have had their terms of office extended to November 2009 while the review was under way. A new board for the NDPB will be required from that date to reflect the new role of the organisation. Recruitment of the board will commence in the summer of 2009, including representation from the key stakeholders.