Joint “blue light” proposals for police and fire to merge get welcome in Suffolk
Government proposals to bring police and fire services together under a single organisation have received a warm welcome in Suffolk.
The change could lead to police and crime commissioners taking over responsibility for fire services – and could lead to the creation of joint control rooms for the emergency services.
The new bodies would be headed by a chief constable – although when the organisations come into existence chief fire officers would also be able to apply.
Beneath the chief constable there would be a deputy chief constable and a senior fire officer.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has been advocating closer relationships between the emergency services, and said the government proposals would make their management much more efficient.
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He said: “I am delighted to see the Home Secretary’s announcement today which supports an even greater commitment to joint working between police and fire services.
“I have made no secret of my desire over the past three years to provide even better value for money for the council taxpayer by joining with partners to cut duplication. This announcement is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.
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“We already have an excellent track record of working with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service with several joint police and fire stations with more in the pipeline and I really look forward to building on this.
“The Constabulary collaborates with other police forces both regionally and nationally and this collaboration saves a huge amount of for the public purse but I have always known there are massive opportunities for us to work more effectively right across the county with public, private and voluntary sector.
“Ultimately these changes will help to maximise resources for the front line , which is what homes and businesses pay for.”
Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public protection said the services were working closely together – and that was a situation that was likely to continue. The council would be looking at the government’s proposals.
Mr Hicks said: “In Suffolk, we have seen the increasing benefit of working with our blue light partners.
“We successfully bid for national transformation funding to support the increasing integration of our front-line blue light services at various locations across the county.
“Over the last two years we have worked with our partners to create shared fire and police stations which are located at Ixworth, Debenham, Woodbridge, Elmswell, Framlingham and Clare.
“Ambulance crews are now based at fire stations in Lowestoft South and North, Bury St Edmunds and Brandon.
“We are currently consulting with the public about a new shared blue light station in the middle of Ipswich and are exploring f
“I’m delighted that the partnership and working relationships between the County Council, Police and Crime Commissioner, Fire, Police and Ambulance Services is so positive in Suffolk and look forward to the increasing opportunities for collaboration as set out today by government.”
After a consultation, ministers have decided to introduce legislation that will place a statutory duty on all three “blue light” services – including ambulances – to collaborate.
The measures will enable PCCs to take on the functions and duties of fire and rescue authorities in their area and potentially create a single employer for police and fire personnel “where a local case is made”.
Officials stressed that fire officers will have to complete assessments and meet standards set by the College of Policing before they are eligible to become chief officers.
A law that prevents a member of a police force from being a firefighter will remain in force, while fire personnel will not be given the power of arrest.
A Fire Brigades Union spokesman said: “It is still our professional opinion that the plans to have PCCs take over responsibility for fire and rescues services are a mistake. PCC takeover of fire and rescue is a costly experiment with no guarantee for success.”
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, also criticised the move.
He said: “Officers from both emergency services already do pull together, working alongside week in, week out, as has been evidenced most recently by the appalling floods.
“So why the burning need to change the law? It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
Policing and fire minister Mike Penning, said: “We believe that better joint working can strengthen the emergency services, deliver significant savings and produce benefits for the public.
“Strong leadership will be required to drive greater efficiencies and improved outcomes. Directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners are clearly accountable to the public and have a strong incentive to pursue ambitious reform and deliver value for money.”
He added: “This is about smarter working. It simply doesn’t make sense for emergency services to have different premises, different back offices and different IT systems when their work is so closely related and they often share the same boundaries.”