Fire authority unhappy with proposed ‘take over’ of their role by police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite

PUBLISHED: 11:20 17 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:11 17 July 2017

Police and Crime Commissioner, Councillor Jason Ablewhite

Police and Crime Commissioner, Councillor Jason Ablewhite

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Cambs Fire Authority met to discuss its response to the Police and Crime Commissioner�s (PCC) consultation about the future governance of the fire and rescue service in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.�

Cambs Fire Authority met to discuss its response to the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) consultation about the future governance of the fire and rescue service in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The business case considers all options available to the PCC following new legislation under the Policing and Crime Bill.

Chairman of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority, Councillor Kevin Reynolds, said: “The Police and Crime Commissioners preference is for him to take over governance of the fire service. This is based on recommendations made in the business case that he commissioned. This would mean our Fire Authority would no longer exist and the PCC would be the sole decision maker for the fire service.

“Members unanimously agreed that the business case did not contain sufficient evidence to prove the case for what could be a costly and unnecessary change in governance arrangements. It also may well reduce the ability of local people to influence the activities of their local fire and rescue service.

”After going through the business case in great detail, we found that it lacks enough evidence to demonstrate that the PCCs preferred option of taking over the authority is the best option for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Many of the benefits cited in the business case lack the strong level of evidence required to demonstrate a governance change is needed.

“Members agreed that a better option would be to maintain the Fire Authority, offering the PCC a seat at the table with voting rights, which is another potential option under the new legislation. In our opinion, we are certain we could achieve the same benefits by simply continuing to work more closely together and without making an unnecessary, costly and unsettling governance change.”

He said the cost savings cited from a governance change in the business case also do not appear to have enough evidence behind them to support any change. He queried whether a potential and unsubstantiated saving of £14,000 per year is a strong enough reason for wholesale change. The response highlighted highlights examples of areas where the authority has collaborated and continues to make significant, ongoing cost savings.

Another argument is accountability. The PCC claims that there is greater accountability in his preferred option. However, the Fire Authority is made up of 17 cross-party councillors who are elected by the public to represent their local needs and so have ongoing contact with communities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. We question whether a PCC who already has such a wide range of responsibilities could reach out and engage the opinion of local people as effectively as the current arrangements.

He said: “Also, we do not see a beneficial fit with the police. We have different cultures and accountabilities. The fire service has a brand that is trusted by the public and we know from experience that firefighters and our community safety staff are able to get into peoples homes because of this trusted brand and they succeed where other partners fail. Any shared governance may impact this.

”We have entered into this process with an open mind and have worked openly and honest with the PCC. We strongly encourage people to complete the survey and have their say about how their local fire and rescue service should be governed and held to account.”

The authority’s detailed response is available here: http://www.cambsfire.gov.uk/july-12-2017-4152.aspx.

The consultation remains open until Monday September 4 and is available here: http://www.cambsfire.gov.uk/about-us/consultations.aspx.

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