December 5 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Thursday, October 10, 2013
“Can-do” Suffolk has been handed more than £200,000 from Whitehall to help the county to integrate its blue light services and see two councils work together more.
In what has been seen as a vote of confidence from the Government, Suffolk police and the fire service have been handed a £60,000 pot of cash to help it look at plans which could see aspects of the two services, such as back office staff, procurement and community safety, merged.
While under the current law police and crime commissioners would not be able to take over responsibility for the fire service, a report due in the coming weeks could pave the way for the elected representatives to expand their remit.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore and Suffolk County Council have been in talks about how fire and police services can work together and under the current system could pull together departments and share buildings,
Mr Passmore said: “It is a clear indication that the Government wants us to progress meetings as quickly as possible.”
But he added: “We have got to make sure we do it properly so we do not have any hiccups. It is an important service, so we cannot mess about with it.”
A spokesman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said the money would be used to develop more joint fire and police stations across the county and to support the wider project to collaborate more closely with the police service, potentially under the governance of the police and crime commissioner.
The Department for Communities and Local Government also announced that Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils will be handed £166,900 in recognition of their recent reorganisation and to help them identify where they can work together more.
The councils have saved almost £9million in the past four years after government cuts of about 40% by sharing service and staff.
In a joint statement Simon Barrett, vice chairman of Babergh’s strategy committee, and Derrick Haley, leader of Mid Suffolk said: “This is a clear vote of confidence from the Government to everyone at Babergh and Mid Suffolk – staff and councillors alike – who have contributed so much to the massive changes that have taken place over the last two years or so.
“We will use this money to invest further in our wide-ranging investigations currently under way across our organisation aimed at both saving further money and improving the positive contributions we can make to those communities.”
Local Government minister Brandon Lewis said: “While councils have a vital role to play in tackling the inherited deficit, the Government has always been clear councils should not close services. Instead councils should demonstrate the best in innovation and ministers will champion councils that successfully redesign services.”