No Agreement Yet On Cambs Police + Fire Merge
3 August 2017, 15:09 | Updated: 3 August 2017, 15:19
There's clear divisions in the way the police and fire service should be governed in Cambridgeshire - with just a month left for the public to have their say.
Members of the public are being asked for their views on a proposed change to the way Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is governed.
New legislation means Police and Crime Commissioners can take on responsibility for fire and rescue services in their area where a good case is made to do so - neighbouring Northamptonshire and Essex now do this.
Cambridgeshire's Police Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite says he's been working with police and fire colleagues to explore options that could give him a greater role in the governance of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.
A business case has been independently produced by PA Consulting setting out four options. Following consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of each option, it recommends the Police and Crime Commissioner takes on the governance of the fire and rescue service.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite said:
"Over 1700 responses have now been received on the consultation. Thank you if you are one of them. If you have not fed back your views, then there is still time.
Collaboration between Blue Light Services in Cambridgeshire is already strong. This proposal is not a takeover of fire and rescue services, or a merger of the roles of police officers and firefighters. The distinction between operational policing and firefighting will be maintained.
I believe that by taking over the governance arrangements from the (now) council run fire authority, I can provide greater accountability and transparency of both police and fire services and can maximise front-line resources and improve public safety. What this means in practice is that I will be responsible for such things as decisions on how Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service spends its budget and whether new fire service facilities should be built or shared with other emergency services."
The Chairman of the current Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority is urging local residents to vote against the Police and Crime Commissioner's (PCC) proposal to take over the governance of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The Fire Authority believes the business case that sits behind the recommended proposal contains insufficient evidence to prove the case for what could be a "costly and unnecessary change in governance arrangements".
The plea comes after the Fire Authority won the support of Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council who both unanimously voted to oppose the PCC's plan and instead supported the Fire Authority's preferred option of having the PCC sitting as a member of the Fire Authority.
Councillor Kevin Reynolds, Chairman of the Fire Authority said:
"Under the Police and Crime Act, for PCCs to take over the governance of fire services, a local business case has to be made to prove it is a viable option on the grounds of economy, efficiency, effectiveness and public safety. In our opinion it fails to do this in all four areas. It contains unsubstantiated assertions and unrealistic assumptions.
The business case details how PCC governance will allow greater collaboration, particularly in terms of shared estates. There is no reason we cannot share estates under the current arrangements though, in fact police officers already use some of our fire stations as touch down stations and plans are underway for more of this and more shared sites. You don't need to come under the same governance for this to happen, you just need two willing parties and we are fully supportive of this as it makes perfect sense for the public purse."
"As a Fire Authority we work extremely hard with the senior fire officers to make efficiencies and improve the service. This is an ongoing process and since 2010 we have saved in excess of £6million, have continuously been one of the lowest cost fire services in the country and still managed to invest in our frontline by providing crews with the most modern fire engines, equipment and protective clothing. The fire service is a much respected and trusted emergency service and with its unrivalled reputation our staff are able to get into the homes of vulnerable people where others have failed, to carry out safety checks and ensure they receive the services they need. This is something we need to protect and we are concerned a change in governance to align closer with the police could affect this.
We began this process with an open mind but having gone through the business case with a fine tooth comb there really is no hard evidence to suggest changing things would be of any benefit to anyone. It would just be a costly and unnecessary change in governance arrangements."
The vast proportion of people we have spoken to disagree with the PCC's proposal too. I would urge people to please complete the survey and make their opinion known about what they think is best for the future of their fire service."
THE FOUR OPTIONS
- No change
- Police and Fire continue to have governance arrangements that are independent of each other
- Representation option: Police and Crime Commissioner has a seat and voting rights on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority
- Police and Crime Commissioner continues to govern Cambridgeshire Constabulary as now