Another fire authority opposes takeover plans

Another fire authority opposes takeover plans

NORTH YORKSHIRE’S fire authority has responded to the local police and crime commissioner (PCC) plan to ‘take control of the way the fire service is run’.

York Press reported on the plans from PCC Julia Mulligan, who launched a consultation ‘proposing changes to the way the county’s fire service is overseen’ along the lines of a series of other counties including Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. These moves have come after the UK government agreed PCCs ‘can take on the role of local fire and rescue authorities where plans are supported’.

Mrs Mulligan’s consultation shares that a ‘preferred option’ is the governance model, where the PCC ‘takes on legal and overarching responsibility’ for provision of fire services in the area. This would see services retain operational independence, budgets, chief fire officers and staff, but would see Mrs Mulligan and her successors become the North Yorkshire fire and rescue authority.

In response, Councillor Andrew Backhouse, the fire authority’s chairman, commented: ‘The fire authority considers that the PCC has not set out an evidenced case for an irreversible transfer of governance from the fire authority to the PCC. Instead we believe it would be better if the PCC were to become a voting member on the Authority, alongside existing councillors.

‘Our proposal balances costs, savings, collaboration and public safety in an appropriate and risk assessed way and still keeps options for change open for the future, if necessary. External reviews have consistently confirmed that the Authority has strong governance arrangements already. We believe that these arrangements can be further enhanced by the addition of the PCC on the authority.

‘We want to ensure that any future governance structure does not de-stabilise the organisation. The authority believes in greater collaboration with a wide range of partners, not just with the police, and our proposed model of governance would deliver this.’

Mrs Mulligan’s perspective, said York Post, was that if both the police and fire service were governed under the same body, this would not see budgets shared or a combined frontline emergency service, though she ‘acknowledged the proposal was a money-saving exercise’. On this note she said that by sharing resources, money could be reinvested into frontline services for both police and fire.

She stated: ‘Let’s be clear, this is not a merger. The two services will remain separate - police officers and fire officers will still have their own distinct roles, and budgets will always be kept separate. But by bringing both organisations under the same governance, we can improve things for everyone.

'In North Yorkshire we have some good examples of working together where the police and fire services join up to prevent harm, helping to protect vulnerable people, and improve community safety. But just a few examples are not enough. There is much more that we could, and should, be doing.'