Plans that could see the Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner take on responsibility for the county’s fire service as well head out to consultation today.
Stephen Mold has launched proposals that could shift the governance of the county’s fire and rescue service away from cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council and the 57 member fire authority. The plans - which if adopted would come into effect from April 2018 - have been drawn up following recent changes in legislation as part of a drive to join up emergency services at local levels. Mr Mold said: “It will save significant amounts of public money which we will reinvest in frontline services. “Having reviewed the business case for this proposal, I’m confident that a change in governance is in the best interests of everyone in Northamptonshire. “However, we want to hear from as many people as possible in the county around their views and concerns, to ensure they are accurately represented as we move forward.” Mr Mold, who was elected on behalf of the Conservatives in 2016, claimed the police’s chief constable Simon Edens and the chief fire officer Darren Dovey would continue to operate independently if the move were to go ahead.
There are no plans to join the branding of the police and fire services and Mr Mold said efficiencies would be made by the sharing of buildings and back-office functions. However, The Fire Brigades Union(FBU) has voiced real concern over such plans nationally. The Staffordshire branch of the union recently slammed similar proposals in the county stating ‘PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners) pose an intrinsic threat to the independence and effectiveness of the fire and rescue service.” Chief fire officer for Northamptonshire Darren Dovey argued the move was about making decision processes ‘slicker’ and about ‘freeing’ the fire service from the county council’s budget.
Police will not ‘carry hoses’ and firefighters will not ‘carry handcuffs’, a promotional video for the move states, though it adds that fire fighters may check windows and door locks on house visits as an example.
Mr Dovey, said; “The county council has a massive amount of demand for its services in adult social care, in children’s care.
“We are part of an organisation with serious demand for services, which means we are often left with the cuts.
“Being part of the police and crime commissioner’ office, we can then set a precept.”
The fire service is currently governed by the fire authority, which is made up of 57 county councillors.
At current funding levels it will need to cutting a further £1.5 million from the service between now and 2020
Mr Mold said he would ask the taxpayer to ask to pay 3p more on their council tax bill towards the fire service if his bid was successful and pledged to increase firefighter numbers.
However, he said the move to make him the police, crime and fire commissioner would only go ahead if there was support for it during the consultation.
“If people don’t want to do it then we will not proceed with it,” he said.
“In politics these days there can be plenty of surprises.
“But I think it is a good idea.”
Chief constable of Northamptonshire Police, Simon Edens, also stated both blue light services ‘share the same vision of a safer Northamptonshire’. “I believe the proposals will help us improve efficiency and make the best use of our resources to help us better protect people from harm,” he said. The consultation is open to members of the public at www.northantsfireproposals.co.uk and will run from Tuesday, 20th June until Tuesday, 1st August.