Police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite wins battle to take over running of Cambridgeshire Fire Authority who are 'hugely disappointed'

PUBLISHED: 17:12 29 July 2019 | UPDATED: 18:24 29 July 2019

Police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite has won the day and will now take over the running of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority. The proposals were attacked by the fire authority who are 'hugely disappointed' at the final decision. Picture; ARCHANT

Police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite has won the day and will now take over the running of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority. The proposals were attacked by the fire authority who are 'hugely disappointed' at the final decision. Picture; ARCHANT

Archant

Cambridgeshire will become the sixth county to have a police and crime commissioner in charge of its fire authority.

Jason Ablewhite effectively won control of both today as the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority revealed it had lost a judicial review to try and stop it.

Fire authority chairman Cllr Kevin Reynolds said they had previously submitted an application for a second judicial prior based on new information received.

The fire authority would now seek legal advice about whether to continue to pursue their case "or what other options there may be for us now".

Unless anything changes, however, Mr Ablewhite will join Essex, North Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Northamptonshire police and crime commissioners in running their local fire authorities: West Mercia fire authority also learnt today it had lost its bid to halt a take over.

Unless Parliament or the new police and fire service minister Kit Malthouse intervenes, the Home Office decision to put Mr Ablewhite in charge will stand.

Cambs fire authority labelled the take over "costly and unnecessary" and argued that it "reduces public accountability".

But Mr Ablewhite, who used new powers under the 2017 Policing and Crime Act, won support from the then police and fire minister Nick Hurd for the business case he put forward.

"I welcome today's judgment, which provides the judge's decision to dismiss the fire authority's judicial review," said Mr Ablewhite.

"This challenged the process by which the Home Secretary made the decision to approve my proposal to transfer the governance of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to myself.

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"It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

Cllr Reynolds was more forthcoming and felt there had been little evidence to support the take-over.

He argued that it would was going to be "a costly and unnecessary change in governance arrangements that reduces public accountability of the fire service".

Cllr Reynolds said: "We sought a judicial review as we believe the fire authority and the fire and rescue service in Cambridgeshire work extremely well together as a governance model."

He said Cambs fire had been recognised as 'good' in efficiency and effectiveness and a Government inspection did not find a single area that could be classified as requiring improvement.

"Surely that demonstrates that what we are doing and how we operate now is working well," he said. "I could understand it if we were poorly performing but we're not.

"We're one of the best fire and rescue services in the country but that doesn't seem to count for anything. It's all just so frustrating."

The fire authority was formed in 1998 to govern Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service when Peterborough became a unitary authority. Prior to that, the county council had been responsible for the county's fire service.

Seventeen members - 13 from Cambridgeshire County Council and four from Peterborough City Council - make up the fire authority.

Each member receives a basic allowance of £2,532.66 and there are scaled payments for committee chairs and special responsibilities. As chairman Cllr Reynolds is paid £12,663 for this year.

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