The Policing and Crime Act 2017 places a duty on emergency services to collaborate and enables the Secretary of State to allow Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to take on responsibilities for fire and rescue services in their area.
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has launched a consultation proposing changes to the way the county’s fire service are overseen.
Residents can visit www.telljulia.com to have their say on the options.
- Julia Mulligan says that the changes will improve the efficiency of both organisations, join up and enhance community safety, better support vulnerable people, improve transparency, and save money that can be reinvested into frontline services.
- The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have that they are reviewing the proposals set out in the business and will remain open minded until that has been done.
- The Fire Authority, the group of Councillors that oversee North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue say that there is insufficient evidence and do not support the proposals.
Julia Mulligan said:
I believe that there are some real opportunities to improve the service to the public, especially the most vulnerable, and at the same time save tax-payers’ money and bolster and protect our frontline services.
Let’s be clear, this is not a merger. The two services will remain separate—police officers and fire officers will still have their own distinct roles, and budgets will always be kept separate. But by bringing both organisations under the same governance, we can improve things for everyone.
Here in North Yorkshire, we have some good examples of working together where the police and fire services join up to prevent harm, helping to protect vulnerable people, and improve community safety. But just a few examples are not enough. There is much more that we could, and should, be doing.
One way to do this would be by re-investing money into our frontline services that we will save by sharing governance and working better together. Saving money elsewhere is how I have been able to increase frontline numbers over the last few years, and this will be no different. For a start, I would explore the opportunities of a truly joint plan for sharing police and fire stations at more than 20 sites across the county where they are already close together, including our Headquarters.
North Yorkshire Police recently relocated its headquarters to Northallerton’s Alverton Court, a move that will save approximately £10 million compared to other proposals.
Julia added: Bringing our fire and police headquarters together into one place could further save up to £250,000 of tax-payers’ money per year. It’s firefighters and police officers that save lives, not buildings. But sharing buildings isn’t just about saving money. By bringing the two chief officer teams together, it would make it easier to develop a shared vision for a joint community safety plan for North Yorkshire, and oversight would be easier too, speeding up the scale and pace of change.
Change is something we must embrace. All our public services are facing financial pressures, so it is vital we pull together, pool our sovereignty and put the public first, who quite rightly expect us to seize every opportunity to protect frontline services.
Julia is encouraging people across the county to visit www.telljulia.com to contribute to the 10-week public consultation.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will be fully reviewing the proposals before they comment. Their approach however is to remain open minded in how services are delivered, they believe that change is part of progress and have had regular contact with the Crime Commissioner over the previous few months. The FBU have continued to raise concerns over staffing numbers, fire stations closures and the use of Tactical Response Vehicles.
The Fire Authority have responded to Launch of Police and Crime Commissioner Business Case. The Fire Authority has 16 seats, with 10 being Conservative Councillors, 2 Liberal Democrat, 1 Independent, 1 Green and 2 Labour.
The Fire Authority Chair, Councillor Backhouse, has issued the following statement, setting out the Fire Authority’s position:
The Fire Authority considers that the PCC has not set out an evidenced case for an irreversible transfer of governance from the Fire Authority to the PCC. Instead we believe it would be better if the PCC were to become a voting member on the Authority, alongside existing councillors.
Our proposal balances costs, savings, collaboration and public safety in an appropriate and risk assessed way and still keeps options for change open for the future, if necessary.
External reviews have consistently confirmed that the Authority has strong governance arrangements already. We believe that these arrangements can be further enhanced by the addition of the PCC on the Authority. We want to ensure that any future governance structure does not de-stabilise the organisation.
The Authority believes in greater collaboration with a wide range of partners, not just with the police, and our proposed model of governance would deliver this.