An Innovative Approach to a Challenging Resource

Kevin Dawson - Peterborough City Council

Following the departure of Cambridgeshire County Council’s sports grounds safety expert, the council looked at how they could deliver this important role and approached colleagues at Peterborough City Council to discuss the idea of sharing resources and expertise. 

We talk to Kevin Dawson, Head of Resilience at Peterborough Council, Chair of the SAG and County Event SAG Chair about the arrangement.

Kevin, tell us how the agreement came about.

I had been working with colleagues at Cambridge County Council for a while, providing support and advice on safety at sports grounds and events in an informal way. When Cambridge County Council found themselves without their expert in sports grounds safety, they approached us at Peterborough to explore options of working together.

How does it work?

An agreement was struck between both councils; Peterborough Council run the SAG of which I Chair, and Cambridge County Council provide the staff to carry out the DPI and administration across both authority areas. Currently there are eight venues across Cambridgeshire with safety certificates two of which are designated football stadiums.

What are the benefits to the agreement?

This approach has provided an opportunity to take a holistic look at sports grounds and how we can become more efficient and jointly carry out our legal responsibilities.

This review of how we operate has led to a more consistent approach in applying the legislation. We’ve standardised safety certification policies and terms of reference as well as minutes and reporting. This is resulting in greater efficiencies and better understanding for everyone involved.

We have also seen a more joined up approach from the emergency services which is welcome as the same representatives attend the different SAG meetings. In addition, the same police Commander is responsible for football related activities across the whole of Cambridgeshire and covers both Cambridge United FC and Peterborough United FC. Across both authority areas there are non-football sports grounds and we have two racecourses at Newmarket, one in Cambridgeshire with the other in Suffolk. The council’s partnership has meant the racecourses have had the opportunity to review their approach and whilst they have two safety certificates in place, they have developed a single operations manual covering both racecourses which provides a consistent approach to safety for all parties involved.

What are the risks with this model?

The biggest risk for us and all local authorities is resilience of staff and having the right people in place to effectively carry out our public safety duties.

The lack of qualified and available people in the council created the impetus for this partnership, of which here have been many benefits. But we must ensure resilience is built in, that departments are properly resourced with the right skills and experiences to ensure safety remains a priority.

For anyone considering collaborating with other authorities it is worth being open minded about how it could work, be patient but persistent and you could achieve a workable model that brings efficiencies and benefits to public safety.