The launch of a single organisation to look after rural affairs and environmental issues in Wales will see three fleets combine to create a new operation consisting of approximately 1,000 vehicles and related assets.
The Natural Resources Body for Wales, which will be launched in April 2013, will bring together the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency in Wales and Forestry Commission in Wales.
The Welsh Government says that one single body will be more efficient and create significant savings, while, as part of its ‘Sustaining a Living Wales’ programme, ensure the most sustainable and effective management of Wales’ natural environment through a more integrated approach.
The new organisation is estimated to deliver savings of £158 million over a 10-year period, allowing greater investment in frontline services, according to the Government.
The initiative has echoes of the integration of other services within the public sector.
For example, the decision to amalgamate the existing, eight Scottish police forces and the Scottish Police Service Authority into a new ‘super’ fleet, which will create a 3,500-strong vehicle operation from April 2013. Potential fleet-related savings alone are estimated at £8.42 million by 2026 (Fleet News: March 8, 2012).
Additionally, a major review of the 12,000-strong NHS Scotland fleet – including the 1,450 vehicles operated by the Scottish Ambulance Service – is nearing completion. It aims to identify potential synergies that can be gained from greater collaboration of fleet management across the NHS Scotland fleets (Fleet News: September 17, 2012).
Currently, the Countryside Council for Wales operates a fleet of around 100 vehicles, including cars, light commercial vehicles and 4x4s.
The Environment Agency’s fleet across England and Wales numbers some 10,000 ‘assets’, including 5,500 vehicles as well as a wide cross-section of plant, agricultural equipment, pumps, trailers and small boats.
It is understood that discussions have already started with regard to the transfer of Environment Agency ‘assets’ currently operating in Wales to the new organisation. It is believed that the transfer will involve some 350-400 ‘assets’, including cars and commercial vehicles, as well as agricultural and construction equipment.
Meanwhile, it is also anticipated that the Forestry Commission, which currently operates on a national basis across England, Scotland and Wales, will also transfer fleet assets currently operating in Wales to the new body.
Across Britain, the Commission’s fleet includes 1,650 road vehicles embracing 650 car-derived vans, 400 cars, 250 4x4 pick-ups, 120 drop-side pick-ups, 100 panel vans, 100 Land Rovers and 20 minibuses, as well as a wide cross-section of plant and specialist equipment, according to its website. However, the number of assets likely to be transferred could not be confirmed.
A Welsh Government press office spokesman said: “It is far too early to go into specific details about the fleet and how it will be managed. A new board has yet to be constituted and a management structure yet to be implemented.”
Among the decisions to be made is whether the fleet will be managed and operated centrally or regionally.
Gareth Roberts, fleet manager at the Countryside Council for Wales, told Fleet News: “The new organisation is in the early stages of development and nothing has been decided or concluded. We are awaiting directions from the new single body, which is only just starting to get together as a team to discuss options and procedures.”
The Natural Resources Body for Wales has just appointed Emyr Roberts, a senior Welsh Government official, to run the agency. He takes up the position on November 1. His appointment follows that of Professor Peter Matthews as chairman of the new organisation.
John Griffiths, Welsh Government minister for the environment and sustainable development, said: “We’ve got three organisations all doing an important job.
“But I think if we could pool them together we would have greater integration, greater efficiency, and greater effectiveness.”
The three bodies that will merge
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s Department of Forestry and has responsibility for managing the 38% of Welsh woodlands owned by the Welsh Government.
The Countryside Council for Wales is the Government’s statutory advisor on sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and the opportunity for outdoor enjoyment in Wales and its inshore waters.
Environment Agency Wales’ principal aims are to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development. It regulates on waste, power stations, air quality, climate change, land management, and the coastline as well as flooding and water quality and is the largest of the three organisations.