Thames Valley emergency services celebrate far-ranging Collaboration Programme

  • Thames Valley Collaboration Programme highlights region’s emergency services
  • Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service (RBFRS), Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service (OFRS), and Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) plus police and ambulance services
  • Collaboration projects underway across three counties with more to follow  

Emergency services across Thames Valley are working in close collaboration to bring innovation, efficiency, and better value for money for the people of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire.

Emergency Services Collaboration in the Thames Valley sets out the ambitious strategy behind the collaboration and explains in detail the type of cross-county work that is already underway or planned for the near future.

This ongoing programme of collaborative activity also involves Thames Valley Police (TVP), and South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), as well as the region’s three fire and rescue services.

What does Collaboration look like?

Collaboration takes many forms, including –

  • Joint control rooms
  • Shared estates and assets
  • First response and co-responding
  • Information sharing
  • Recruitment
  • Shared specialist capabilities

Many of these elements are already underway across the emergency services within Thames Valley, with several other innovative projects planned for the coming months. 

Case Study: Thames Valley Fire Control Service

Thames Valley Fire Control Service, based in Calcot, Reading, is a joint fire service control room serving the people of Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, helping a combined population of two million people with the help of the most up-to-date technology.

Since opening in April 2015, the service has delivered significant savings to all three services. By the end of 2024-25, total savings of nearly £16 million are expected thanks to the increased efficiency and improved performance the shared control room allows.

Case Study: Jointly purchased fire engines

The next generation of fire engines is now serving in the Thames Valley following a successful collaborative project run in a partnership between Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire fire and rescue services.

A total of 37 new fire engines will be delivered by 2021, with 15 delivered in 2017, eight for Buckinghamshire, three for Oxfordshire and four for Berkshire. This project will lead to estimated savings of more than £700,000. The vehicles are based at stations close to the three services’ shared borders and replace existing vehicles.

Case Study: Shared premises

Hungerford Community Fire Station officially opened following a major refurbishment which began in November 2016. The refurbishment not only delivered a modern, fit-for-purpose fire station, but also Berkshire’s first community tri-service station, providing shared facilities for RBFRS, TVP and SCAS.

More recently, the Witness Care Unit from TVP and Victims First, part of the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), began sharing office space within the Reading headquarters of RBFRS.

In Oxfordshire, work will start in March 2019 on refurbishments to Chipping Norton and Woodstock Fire Stations, which will become joint Fire and Police stations serving their communities.

What happens next?

Case study: Milton Keynes Emergency Services Hub

Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority is working with SCAS and TVP to move into a new purpose-built ‘hub’ that will see all three services operate from one site, based at West Ashland in Milton Keynes.

The building will allow the three services to leave five existing sites in the Milton Keynes area, which will free-up those sites for alternative use and provide substantial savings to taxpayers from reduced running costs. The new site should be ready for occupation by around October 2019.

In Berkshire, there are plans for Theale to host a new fire station, with facilities provided for both SCAS and TVP on the premises. Crowthorne will also be rebuilt to house a similar new building, with work due to commence in 2019.

In Oxfordshire, plans are being finalised to build the Carterton Community Hub. The temporary Carterton Fire Station was opened in December 2018, which will move into the Community Hub when it has been built. The Hub will provide a base for emergency and communities services in the area and be a resource for the local community.

Future opportunities

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Jefferies, collaboration lead for RBFRS, said: “The blue light services of the Thames Valley have a proud tradition of collaboration and by working together with our emergency services partners we can ensure that we provide the best value for money for the people we serve.

“This important document outlines the collaboration that has been going on for a number of years between the three fire and rescue services and our partners, including the move to a shared Thames Valley Fire Control Service in 2015.

“The existing willingness to work together, combined with a new legislative approach will provide structure and a renewed emphasis for emergency service partners to develop, improve and maintain their collaborative working arrangements with new and existing partners.”

Lynne Swift, BFRS Director of People and Organisational Development, is the collaboration lead for BFRS. She said: “Working together and sharing accommodation with other emergency services both increases opportunities for more partnership work and provides savings for the public.

“We will continue to explore opportunities to collaborate and where possible share accommodation with other emergency services to ensure that we provide the best possible service and value for money to the communities of Thames Valley.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Rob McDougall, collaboration lead for OFRS, explained: “The Thames Valley region is a leading example of public sector collaboration which is not only an effective and efficient way of working, but a moral duty to help protect the communities we serve. It further embeds shared working practices and allows us to better align our response to ensure our communities receive an effective response no matter which side of the county border they live in.”