Fire minister Brandon Lewis has announced Capita as the preferred bidder for the purchase of the Fire Service College.
The fire minister said he was happy that the proposed sale of the college to Capita would achieve value for money for the public purse and secure the future of the college.
Mr Lewis said:
“I am delighted that we are making real progress in securing the future of such an important facility. It is vital for the development of the Fire Service College that we put it on a sound footing, giving the private sector a chance to provide innovation and investment that will guarantee the future of a world-class asset.”
To ensure best value for money for taxpayers and enable the college to continue in its role, a number of conditions will be imposed on the proposed sale. These include commitments that:
the college be preserved as a national training centre for fire and rescue authorities
it will continue to offer wider national resilience and emergency services training and exercises
government permission will be required if Capita wish to sell the incident ground
Councillor Kay Hammond, Chair of the Local Government Association’s fire services management committee, said:
“It is good news that government has listened to the views of the sector about the future of the Fire Service College and that it now looks set to get the outside investment it so badly needs. The Local Government Association and fire authorities will be keen to work with the future owners to help them transform the college into a first-class training facility fit for firefighters in the 21st century.”
Chief Fire Officers’ Association President, Vij Randeniya, said:
“The Chief Fire Officers’ Association welcomes the news that Capita has been selected. It has been a long and intensive process and we are glad that there is now clarity for the Fire Service College. We look forward to working closely with Capita to ensure that the very best provision is available for UK fire and rescue services.”
The government now looks forward to holding constructive discussions with Capita to ensure that the transition from public to private sector is as smooth as possible and expects to complete the sale early in the new year.
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. 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.
The Future Options project considered 4 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 4 options showed disposal as a going concern to be the best option, and the only one which both removes from government ongoing financial risks of ownership of the college and preserves a national training college for the fire and rescue service.
Ministers announced on 22 March 2012 that the Fire Service College would be sold as a going concern to a private sector company to continue operating as a training centre.
The sale process was launched on 10 April 2012 and the due diligence phase concluded in October with the receipt of final bids. Best and final offers were received in November. The aim is to complete the sale in early 2013.