Groundbreaking plan boost

AN innovative move by firefighters to take ownership of Cleveland Fire Brigade has been given a £95,000 Government boost.

The ground-breaking plan is to run it as a mutual business and the Government backing, which will help provide specialist business expertise, has come from the £10m Mutual Support Programme.

As a mutual, Cleveland Fire Brigade would be owned by its employees and will provide fire and rescue services under contract to the local fire authority.

Officials say employees will have a high degree of control in how the fire brigade is run, giving them more power over how they do their jobs and the ability to expand their services by bidding for new business.

Ian Hayton, chief fire officer at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “We are extremely grateful for this vital support.

“As firefighters, we are tremendously proud of the service we provide to our local community.

“We believe, by becoming a mutual we will protect and strengthen our ability to keep our community safe.

“We already use the additional income coming through our social enterprise arm to improve levels of community safety for our local population.

“As our plans develop over the next 12-18 months we will continue to drive our service from strength to strength,” he added.

There are already 58 mutuals operating in other services, such as health and social care.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “Cleveland Fire Brigade is breaking new ground with its plan to become the first mutual fire service in the country, and we want to help them every step of the way.”

Employees at Cleveland Fire Brigade have already shown their entrepreneurial drive by setting up a social enterprise which provides fire prevention services to businesses and uses the profits to fund fire prevention work in the community.

This has helped contribute to the number of fires in Cleveland falling well below the national average.

The social enterprise was further boosted recently by winning a major contract to provide 24-hour emergency cover for INEOS Nitriles, one of Europe’s largest industrial manufacturers of plastics, at the company’s Seal Sands site.

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