One head is better than three: Havering to overhaul its emergency planning

Imagine a sudden flu pandemic in the borough; a flood, perhaps; or even a huge chemical spill.

These are the sorts of scenarios Havering Council, working alongside its 999 colleagues, has to be ready to deal with at any time of the day or night.

However, the costs for such emergency planning are high, but the council says it can cut outgoings, while maintaining safety, by sharing services with neighbouring authorities: Waltham Forest, and Barking and Dagenham,

Patrick Keyes, head of planning and building control, said: “The arrangement for the emergency services does not stop at borough boundaries, and [the council] wants to pick up on some of the things about that across the divide working.”

There are dozens of instances each year in the borough involving the council’s crisis team, such as gas leak evacuations and large fires.

Most recently, the team was deployed in Rainham following the huge power outage caused by the theft of electrical cables.

Although many risks are bough-specific, like flooding circumstances, Patrick says smart-thinking and smart-planning, is key to saving cash.

Most Read

“All London boroughs must have individual emergency planning strategies for risks that could threaten their residents,” he explained. “There will be one manager of the combined service, but team members will still be employed and work out of their home borough. This means that the teams will be able to cover a wider area, share skills and save on communication costs.”

Other savings will be found in sharing resources, including sundries like ration packs and fold-up beds, as well as in staff training and travel costs.

The savings, however, are yet to be fully understood.

“That’s the purpose of the pilot,” said Patrick, “We want to expand on the opportunities that are available with shared working.”

The new scheme is part of the council’s overarching plan to slash bureaucracy while protecting the council’s front-line services and it is one “other councils are keeping an eye on” for inspiration, said Patrick.

The pilot builds upon an existing agreement between the authorities, known as East London Solutions, set up to identify areas where the six east London boroughs can work more effectively together.

So far, there is a shared head of service for ICT between Havering and Newham, joint highways contract between Havering and Barking and Dagenham, and the merger of the print facilities between Newham and Havering.