The Association of Local Authority Risk Managers (ALARM) is a body which promotes risk management to the public sector. The aim of ALARM is to promote professionalism and liaise with bodies with common interests such as The Society of Local Authority Chief Officers (SOLace), The Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants (CIPFA) and AIRMIC.

The main way ALARM promotes itself to its members is through conferences and training. In this way it provide a focus to develop risk management strategies which address the identification, analysis and economic control of all risks which threaten the assets and objectives of an organisation, and raise the profile and importance of risk management within the public sector.

This year, its annual conference will be held on April 17 and 18 at Warwick University. There it hopes to educate its members and provide networking opportunities for delegates from around the world.

There are approximately 1163 members in ALARM, with the bulk of them in local authorities and several in public and health authorities. These include local government, the police service, fire and rescue services, water authorities, probation services, universities, the environment agency, housing associations, health authorities, national parks and the construction service agency.

ALARM supports its members through nine regional groups. Each group develops their own programmes and training within its region.

As well as national conferences, ALARM aims to educate these groups through the following vehicles: its library, based in Devon; its web site; quarterly magazines; members newsletters, which provide articles, advice and guidance and an annual ALARM awards scheme, which shows its members what good practice is. ALARM also provides advice and guidance on specific issues and talks to various groups like SOLACE and CIPFA to convince them about the importance of effective risk managers.

"Risk management is important as it helps the local authorities reduce loss for claims," says David Fleetwood, the chairman of ALARM

"The biggest risk this year has been stress in the workplace as well as arson in schools. ALARM spends £400m annually on services to the public to try and reduce these risks. Through this spending, potential financial benefits can be headlined and losses controlled."

The profile of risk management has been enhanced in the public sector and it is now generally recognised as a key consideration for local authorities and public sector bodies.. ALARM has grown from a small grouping to a significant player in risk management.

ALARM has a good relationship with insurers and major players in the public sector who would like to see authorities manage risk better and are strong supporters of ALARM.

However, risk management has gone through a structured review over the past couple of years because of government regulation. The Local Government Act 1999, stated that public bodies must complete plans for Best Value reviews within a time scale.

Mr Fleetwood added: "Authorities must be able to demonstrate that what you are doing is good in the market place, this means making Authorities become vulnerable to competition. There is a threat that authority services may become outsourced."

However, ALARM has managed to save local authorities £1.5m this year which will go back to schools and social services.