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Prior to combination, both Dorset and Wiltshire were traditionally low spending authorities. They also suffered from being low funded authorities as well, receiving much lower than average funding from central government, compared to other fire authorities.
To protect frontline services and be a stronger partner, both authorities agreed to merge under a whole system transformation programme. In March 2016, Parliamentary approval was granted for them to combine to create Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority. This plan charts the journey that we are pursuing to create a Service that has collaboration and efficiency at its very heart.
We have and continue to establish and develop new approaches to corporate governance and financial management. In support of this, we have adopted new policies & procedures and new contract & procurement arrangements, and harmonised our financial management system.
We are fundamentally re-engineering all departments. We have a programme of work to ensure that these new frameworks, systems and relationships are understood by all our managers and embedded within the new Service. As detailed in our medium term finance plan, we have adopted the following principles:
- Review the way we formally delivered our services; share and adopt good practice and maximise our future efficiency, effectiveness and economy;
- Eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and make the best use of technology;
- Rationalise the use of our estate through robust asset management including maximising the opportunities to share premises;
- Ensure that procurement decisions are business led and focused on whole life costs;
- Seek more from our contracts and the quality of goods and services provided;
- Pursue greater economies of scale and synergy by maximising our partnership opportunities;
- Seek external funding and partnership opportunities in order to support our priorities.
During the lifetime of this plan, we intend to drive value efficiency and value for money from the following perspectives:
- Harmonising non-station based resourcing;
- Progressing the concept of one public estate and rationalising our properties;
- Ensuring our available operational resources are best aligned to community risks through the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP);
- Maximising technology and mobile working.
The projects and initiatives central to this efficiency plan are derived from our transformation programme. Each project or activity has been incorporated within our planning, performance and project management arrangements.
Use of Reserves
Reserves are an essential part of good financial management. They allow authorities to manage unpredictable financial pressures and plan for their future spending. The level, purpose and planned use of reserves are important factors for Members to consider in developing medium-term financial plans (MTFP) and setting annual budgets.
Reserves are held for three main purposes:
- a working balance to help cushion the impact of uneven cash flows and avoid unnecessary temporary borrowing – this forms part of general reserves
- a contingency to cushion the impact of unexpected events or emergencies – this also forms part of general reserves
- a means of building up funds (often referred to as earmarked reserves) to meet known or predicted requirements
Within the existing statutory and regulatory framework, it is the responsibility of the Chief Finance Officer to advise the Authority about the level of reserves that it should hold and to ensure that there are clear protocols for their establishment and use.
The projected balance of reserves for the period is shown in the following table.
|Estimated Financial Reserves Levels
(All figures are £000 unless stated)
|General Fund Balance 01/04||
|General Fund Balance 31/03||
|Earmarked General Fund Reserves 01/04||
|Expected Use of Earmarked Reserves||
|Earmarked General Fund Reserves 31/03||
Plans are being developed for future investments around wholetime and on-call firefighter duty systems, and looking at our premises and equipment, as part of the current review of the Integrated Risk Management Plan, to provide more effective service provision across the counties of Dorset and Wiltshire. The results of this will need to be funded from reserves, and will be considered as part of the 2017/18 budget.