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Fire Service College

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 22 March 2012

The Government’s response to Fire Futures on 12 April 2011 said that the college can achieve its full potential only if there is greater involvement from other sectors (whether private, public or voluntary) in its ownership, operation and governance and that we would

“explore with the sector and other organisations options to secure the future of the Fire Service College”.

Using evidence gained from the pre-market engagement to better inform our view of market appetite and taking into account the review commissioned by the Local Government Association, we concluded disposal as a going concern to the private sector was the best option to secure the future of the college.

The Fire Service College is a trading fund and Executive agency of the Department. Since becoming a trading fund in 1992, it has never been able to pay a dividend out of operating profits. This situation cannot persist and the Government’s response to Fire Futures on 12 April 2011 concluded that the college could achieve its full potential only if there was greater involvement from other sectors in its ownership, operation and governance.

With the college freed from the constraints of Government ownership, a private sector owner can bring innovation and investment to the college, benefiting taxpayers, local residents, the fire and rescue service and, ultimately, strengthening national resilience.

The Future Options project considered four options for the future of the college:

The status quo—The college remains as a trading fund of the Department.

A Government owned contractor operated model—The assets remain under Government ownership but management of the college is taken over by a private sector company under a long-term contract, together with the staff.

Disposal as a going concern—The college is sold to a private sector company who would continue to operate the college as a training centre.

Closure—The college’s activities cease, staff are made redundant and the site is sold for an alternative use.

Analysis of the four options showed disposal as a going concern to be the best option. It is the only option which both fully removes from Government the ongoing financial risks of ownership of the college and preserves a national training college for the fire and rescue service.