Ablewhite tells of ongoing legal challenge by Cambridgeshire fire authority to stay independent of police and crime commissioner control

Jason Ablewhite, the police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire. He has spoken of the legal ch

Jason Ablewhite, the police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire. He has spoken of the legal challenge by the fire authority that is holding up a merger. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite says the county’s fire authority is still resisting his take-over bid.

Mr Ablewhite reported to the October meeting of the police and crime panel that the fire authority has sought permission to appeal a decision that would have allowed the two services to come under his control.

The appeal was despite the judge who heard the case having refused them permission, he told the panel.

"They have also submitted a further legal challenge," Mr Ablewhite said.

In the meantime he said the fire authority had agreed to continue a collaborative arrangement whereby they shared a section 151 (chief finance) officer, Matthew Warren.

"The dialogue on potential further collaboration opportunities is ongoing," he said.

The fire authority's judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision was dismissed by the High Court at the end of July.

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"The fire authority has continued to pursue their legal challenge of the Home Secretary's decision," said Mr Ablewhite.

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 allowed for police and crime commissioners to take on responsibility for fire authorities.

Mr Ablewhite said his proposal to take on the governance of the fire service was submitted to the Home Office in October 2017.

"Where the upper tier authorities do not agree with a proposal, as was the case in Cambridgeshire, the Home Office is required to obtain an independent assessment of the proposal," he said.

"The Home Secretary took into account the findings of the independent assessment when making the final decision whether or not to approve the commissioner's proposal."

Following the appraisal it was announced in March last year that Cambridgeshire's police and crime commissioner would be allowed to take over the roles and duties of the fire authority.

"The Home Secretary considered that the Cambridgeshire proposal demonstrated that a transfer of governance would be in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness and would not have an adverse effect upon public safety," said Mr Ablewhite.

However a legal challenge began by the fire authority and continues to this day.

Mr Ablewhite said it had been anticipated that "a smooth transition" would have occurred in June or July of last year.