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21 November 2018, 15:30 | Updated: 21 November 2018, 15:33
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has said it is not the right time to submit a final business case to the Secretary of State for a change of fire service governance.
Lorne Green said: “After careful consideration and after weighing up all the evidence, I have decided that it is not yet the right time to submit a case to the Secretary of State. I will keep the situation under close review on the clear understanding that, should circumstances change, a case can be submitted. The lights are amber.”
Lorne’s decision follows the conclusion of an eight-week consultation which sought the views of the public, partners and stakeholders on whether the governance of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service should move from Norfolk County Council control and come under a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.
A total of 7,727 people took part in the consultation, which ran from 11 July to 5 September, with 59% stating they agreed with the PCC’s proposal for change.
Lorne said: “In January 2017, Parliament enacted a new legal duty for the three main emergency services to collaborate. This legislation provided PCCs with the opportunity to explore whether collaboration could be made simpler, faster and better, with specific reference to police and fire and rescue. Was there a better way of working? Parliament asked.
“To say “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” does a great disservice to those for whom we have a duty always to strive for better. That has been the guiding principle in our exploration of options for the governance of the fire and rescue service in our county going forward. Could we do better for our men, women and children? Could we enhance their public safety and provide more effective and more cost efficient services? We are servants of the public – their interests must come first, for the most important political office is that of citizen.”
The PCC said that, as a public servant, he felt it was incumbent on him to see if there was a better way of doing things and to give the people of Norfolk their say.
Lorne said: “During the consultation period, I travelled the length and breadth of Norfolk, speaking to thousands of people, offering them the opportunity to find out more, ask questions and have their say. I held more than 40 public events. I went to lunch clubs, supermarkets and council meetings; I stood on sea fronts, market places and high streets.
“It was heartening to see the level of interest of Norfolk people and their willingness to engage in the debate about the future of two key public services. It was clear to me that what people want at the end of the day are good public services that deliver the best possible service and excellent value for money. The consultation results show that Norfolk people believe that this would best be achieved with a change of governance for their fire and rescue service.”
Lorne added that, despite the public mandate, he had decided that now is not the right time to submit a case to the Secretary of State.
He said: “Norfolk County Council’s continued opposition means it has not been possible to achieve local consensus. Given the nature of the change, the County Council’s co-operation and support has a significant impact on the likelihood that the change could be delivered successfully and in line with the business case.
“I also want to be clear that the status quo has gone; this whole process I have led has had the powerful effect of being a compelling catalyst for change. As a direct result of this work, I am pleased to announce that a reinvigorated Emergency Services Collaboration Board met for the first time on Monday. Of enormous significance, it agreed that A Case for Change should be the blueprint for the future, whoever oversees our public services. This is a welcome move and no doubt something that will also be of interest to Her Majesty’s inspectors during Norfolk Fire and Rescue’s upcoming inspection.
“However, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. As PCC I will be monitoring progress around collaboration closely consistent with A Case for Change. To allow me full oversight and scrutiny, I will also request a seat on the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Authority.
“I will monitor progress closely and revisit where we are early in the New Year, at which time we may also have the benefit of results from the national inspection of the Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service, and know where matters stand with regards to the outstanding judicial reviews in other counties.”
In response to all this, Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of Norfolk County Council's Communities Committee, said: “We already have a well-established collaborative relationship with Norfolk Police. Working together we have achieved a lot and we are committed to making sure this continues. We are already working with Norfolk Police to drive forward further opportunities for new and innovative ways to keep our residents safe and to make sure Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service continues to be as effective and efficient as possible.”
The full ‘A Case for Change’ Consultation Report can be accessed via the OPCCN website at: www.norfolk-pcc.gov.uk/fire-governance-review.