Essex commissioner to take over fire service
THE COUNTY’S police and crime commissioner (PCC) will become the first police, fire and crime commissioner in England from this October.
East Anglian Daily Times and BBC reported on the announcement, which will see Essex PCC Roger Hirst become ‘the first police, fire and crime commissioner in October 2017’ across the country after getting government approval under the Policing and Crime Act 2017. This saw the government introduce a ‘range of measures to drive greater collaboration between emergency services, enabling services to share best practice and become more efficient and effective’.
One element of this is enabling PCCs to ‘take on governance and fire and rescue services where a local case is made’, with PCCs said to have ‘brought clear local transparency and accountability to police forces and their performance, as well as ensuring communities have a stronger voice in local policing’. The government’s view is that PCCs ‘will be able to bring this same level of accountability to fire and rescue services’ and ‘help the continuous improvement of the service’.
Another area in which the government believes this would help is to ‘encourage greater collaboration between police and fire services’, including ‘sharing of back office functions and premises’ to ‘enable the two services to work more effectively together to protect the public and secure best value for money’. At the same time, the ‘important distinction between operational policing and firefighting will still be maintained’.
A range of other PCCs around the country are in the process of ‘developing business cases or exploring options’ in terms of taking over fire and rescue governance, including Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire. Mr Hirst proposed his takeover to the Home Office after a public consultation and endorsements from the county’s three local authorities, and will not receive an increased salary in the new role.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had said the plans were ‘dangerous’ after they were first suggested in 2015, and this particular move will ‘include the sharing of administrative functions and premises’, though ‘no details were given about any job losses in the services’. Recently, an Essex county councillor expressed his view that cuts in the county’s fire service were raising ‘major safety concerns’.
Mr Hirst stated: ‘The people of Essex deserve to have the best possible emergency services. By bringing together the governance of the Essex Police and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service we can support closer working and make investment decisions that will bring even bigger benefits in the future.
‘By ensuring a more joined-up response to incidents, providing crime and fire prevention advice, creating community safety hubs, and sharing buildings we can improve how we work and generate significant savings which can then be reinvested back into front line services. Essex has always been an innovative and forward thinking county as shown by the support we have received for this proposal. Together we can do more to improve the service we give to the public and help keep people safe.’
Nick Hurd, Minister for Policing and Fire, added: ‘It’s great to see Essex taking the lead in this field and bringing forward a proposal which has support from local authorities across the county and from many of the public. I want to see our emergency services continue to drive closer collaboration to encourage joint working, the sharing of best practice and more innovative thinking.
‘Having a directly accountable leader overseeing policing and fire will help both services enhance their effectiveness, maximise available resources, boost local resilience and improve the services delivered to the public. I’m really looking forward to seeing the benefits this will bring to the local area.’