Suffolk PCC abandons takeover plans

Suffolk PCC abandons takeover plans

TIM PASSMORE, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), announced he would ‘not be pursuing’ a takeover of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

Bury Free Press reported on Mr Passmore’s decision, which came after he commissioned an independent review ‘to assist his decision making’ that found ‘there was insufficient evidence to suggest a governance change would be in the clear interests of economy, efficiency, effectiveness or public safety’.

This move, like a series of others, came after the UK government agreed PCCs ‘can take on the role of local fire and rescue authorities where plans are supported’. In recent months, Essex and then Avon became the first two fire authorities to be taken over by their local PCCs. There has been opposition to plans in North Yorkshire, where the fire authority criticised the plans, with other similar responses coming in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Mr Passmore said: ‘From the outset I said I would only consider taking over the governance of Suffolk’s fire service if it provided clear benefit to the county’s tax-payers. Following an extensive options appraisal process, it is clear that the benefit from a change of governance is unlikely to be significant, so I feel it is sensible not to take this any further for the foreseeable future.

‘I am very satisfied that PA consulting, who carried out the review, has considered all the risks and benefits of this potential change of governance. Their thorough report highlights some benefits but not enough to make a change in governance worthwhile. Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) are both relatively low cost services and whilst I understand the medium-term financial position of SFRS is protected; the longer-term position is less clear.

‘It would be foolhardy for me to make such a major change to the governance of the fire service whilst this uncertainty exists. At this point, I think my main focus needs to be on the challenges that the constabulary faces and making sure we deliver the best possible policing for Suffolk’s taxpayers.

‘Despite my decision not to change the governance arrangements at this stage, this does not mean we will not continue to look at every opportunity for deeper joint working and collaboration between our two organisations to improve service delivery and obtain better value for money for taxpayers in Suffolk.

‘The next step for my team is to meet with the chief constable, the cabinet member for public protection, Cllr Matthew Hicks and his chief fire officer and agree how we will take the recommendations of this report forward together.’

The consultants noted that the representation and single employer options in Suffolk would not ‘deliver sufficient benefits or be viable’, with detailed assessments made of two ‘viable’ options including no change and the governance model. Mr Passmore will ‘continue to work closely’ with both Suffolk County Council and SFRS ‘to identify further collaboration opportunities’.

Mr Hicks added: ‘In Suffolk we have really been pushing ahead with blue light collaboration between our fire and rescue service and the police, working together and with the sharing of fire and police stations. In fact we’re held up nationally for it. Suffolk County Council and the fire and rescue service have been heavily involved in this process and feel strongly that regardless of governance arrangements, we will continue to work closely and share resources so that we can continue to keep people in Suffolk safe.’