Suffolk: Fire and police services merger on PCC’s agenda

Could the police and fire service merge? Could the police and fire service merge?

Saturday, April 19, 2014
11:00 AM

A full-scale merger between Suffolk’s fire and police services could be the long-term future of emergency services in the county, according to Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore.

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However there would need to be a change in the law before any such merger takes place – and the Government has ruled out finding time for such legislation before the next General Election.

The proposal is one of a series of recommendations by former London fire chief Sir Ken Knight in a report commissioned by the government into the fire service across the country and published last year.

Mr Passmore said such a merger, leading to the formation of a dual fire and police authority, could have clear benefits in Suffolk.

There are already four joint fire and police stations in the county, and such a merger would bring all the emergency services’ buildings, vehicle fleets, and back office functions under a single administration – potentially increasing efficiency and saving money.

Mr Passmore said: “This is something we need to look at. I have always said my aim is to do what is best for the people of Suffolk. This is a way of improving efficiency and maintaining services in Suffolk.”

A merger of the two authorities would not necessarily mean the creation of a joint Suffolk police and fire control room immediately – although again that is something Mr Passmore is interested in considering.

At present calls for Suffolk fires are handled by Cambridgeshire fire service’s control room as part of a five-year contract that started in autumn 2011 – there could be no change in that until the end of 2016 at the earliest.

Mr Passmore has said that he would like to work towards developing a joint control centre for all the blue-light services in Suffolk, including the ambulance service which has a control centre at Hellesdon, near Norwich.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public protection Colin Spence said he was keen for the fire service to work as closely as possible with the police – but a full merger was not on the horizon at present.

“This was a proposal in Sir Ken Knight’s report, but (police minister) Damian Green has made it clear that there is no chance of the necessary legislation coming through before the general election, and it would be problematic after then.

“Of course if Labour comes back into power it has always been more keen on a regional approach – as we saw with the fire control room fiasco.”

He added that there were only 12 fire and rescue services across the country that were wholly part of a county council, as in Suffolk. In other places – including Cambridgeshire and Essex – fire and rescue services are run by separate bodies combining county councils and unitary authorities.

Mr Spence also warned that any attempt to create a joint fire and police control room would face huge technical problems because the two services relied on different technology.

He pointed out that the regional fire centre programme eventually failed because of problems with information technology between fire authorities – and any attempt to combine police and fire IT could be even more problematic.

8 comments

  • Of course I didn't actually mean do the test, I wouldn't want anyone to waste taxi time.

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    Fly Tipper

    Monday, April 21, 2014

  • Thinking laterally, the control room function could easily be taken on by any taxi company. They are used to handling lots of calls from the public (probably 10 times as many as all the services put together) and do it probably on minimum wage and very efficiently. Just to test whether they are up to the job you could do a test. Call a taxi firm and the police at exactly the same time. Request a taxi and emergency police attendance for the same address. Sit back and see who gets there first.

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    Fly Tipper

    Monday, April 21, 2014

  • pandy

    Monday, April 21, 2014

  • my comment not printed again ,i should have said i love mr passmore and think he does a wonderful job,bet they would have printed that

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    pandy

    Monday, April 21, 2014

  • We should be moving towards a single police service for the UK, a single fire service and a single ambulance service with them structured on a regional basis so there would be an East of England Fire, Ambulance & Police service There should be a common control room for all three emergency services. This would save Billions of pounds a year

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    BobE

    Sunday, April 20, 2014

  • Surely the way forward is to merge the services into national organisations rather than persist with regional models? There are already national pay scales and grades. Practice's and training is also dictated by the Home Office so the foundations are laid and such an approach would put an end to the "me to" competitions to buy new toys like the helicopters.

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    amsterdam81

    Sunday, April 20, 2014

  • How on earth will this save taxpayers any money?

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    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

  • I was not a fan of the idea of elected PCC's; viewing it as yet another layer of expensive bureaucracy. However, I must admit that I have been very encouraged by Tim Passmore's personaly performance, and the fact that democracy (people power) does seem to have some influence on his outlook. Every department, or job, or control transferred over the border to Norfolk, Essex or Cambridgeshire is lost forever. So, if cost savings must be made, then let's at least do it in a manner which retains Suffolk's accountability, empowerment and control over its assets. I back Mr Passmore on this proposal.

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    Mark Ling

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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