Fire Minister Brandon Lewis has today announced the completion of the sale of the Fire Service College to Capita. The minister said that the college has at long last been given the best possible chance to fully realise the huge potential for this world-class asset.
Mr Lewis said:
“I believe that by freeing the college from the constraints of government ownership, a private sector owner like Capita will have the freedom to generate new business and provide the innovation and investment which the college needs to safeguard its long term future.”
The project to sell the Fire Service College had 3 key objectives in mind, to:
- secure the college’s future as a provider of fire and rescue and wider emergency services operational training and as a venue for large multi-agency exercises
- achieve overall value for money for the Department for Communities and Local Government, the UK Fire and Rescue Service and the taxpayer
- secure continuing access to National Resilience strategic assets
These aims have all been achieved in the sale to Capita.
The sale represents a good deal for the taxpayer. The college has been sold to Capita for an enterprise value of £10 million. In addition, the department will share in any future profits from the development of college land and will receive further revenue from the sale of a number of houses previously part of the college estate.
More importantly, Capita has also committed to invest in a significant programme of infrastructure and transformation and is keen to ensure that training courses deliver improved value for money.
Taken together the sale of the college has the potential to deliver an estimated benefit of £30 million to the taxpayer in the first few years and at the same time secure the college’s future.
Mr Lewis added:
“I am particularly pleased that important partners, such as the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Local Government Association, have reacted positively to the sale, and I would like to wish Capita every success in realising their vision for the college.”
Andy Parker, Capita’s joint chief operating officer said:
“We envisage that the college will become a pioneering facility for the fire service, other emergency services and related markets, such as defence, oil and gas. It will support professional development and host integrated scenario planning and live exercises for major incidents. Capita will also support national standards that will ensure consistency of training delivered at both a local and international level. Capita recognises the college as an establishment that offers great potential in enabling the emergency services to meet the demands of the future.”
The Fire Service College has been a trading fund and executive agency of the department. Since it became 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 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 1 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.
On 22 March 2012 ministers announced 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.
Ministers announced Capita as the preferred bidder on 13 December 2012.
A full ‘Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations’ (TUPE) consultation has taken place with union representatives at the college.