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Suffolk’s police and fire services to remain under separate management

PUBLISHED: 16:34 08 September 2017

Police and fire services will continue to work together closely in Suffolk. Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable; Matthew Hicks from SCC; Nick Barber; Mayor of Felixstowe, Tim Passmore, PCC;  and Mark Hardingham, Chief Fire Officer, at the opening of the new fire and police station at Felixstowe.

Police and fire services will continue to work together closely in Suffolk. Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable; Matthew Hicks from SCC; Nick Barber; Mayor of Felixstowe, Tim Passmore, PCC; and Mark Hardingham, Chief Fire Officer, at the opening of the new fire and police station at Felixstowe.

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Proposals to bring Suffolk’s police and fire services together under a single administration have been dropped after a £75,000 report said it was not clear there would be any benefits.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, who commissioned the report from PA Consulting, said he accepted its findings and he would not be going ahead with the plans at this time.

Elsewhere in the country – including in Essex – plans are already in hand for PCCs to take overall responsibility for the fire service as well.

When the government announced last year that PCCs may take over fire service management, Mr Passmore was quick to show an interest in the proposal – there are already eight joint fire and police stations across the county.

However now he accepts this is not the time for such work: “The report was comprehensive and said it was not clear that there would be a benefit from merging the services now, so I have called a halt to those plans for now. That’s not to say they couldn’t be considered again in a few years.”

He said the report cost £75,000, but that is much less than if he had gone straight for the merger proposal. That could have taken £200,000+ to build a business case which could have come to nothing.

He said the fact that the fire service was part of the county council, not an independent body as in Essex, was crucial to the decision – and the two services would continue to work closely.

“Despite my decision not to change the governance arrangements at this stage this does not mean we will not continue to look at every opportunity for deeper joint working and collaboration between our two organisations.”

Another factor in the decision was the uncertainty over the government regulations for fire services which were likely to be reviewed in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Matthew Hicks, county cabinet member for public protection, said, “In Suffolk we have really been pushing ahead with blue light collaboration between our fire and rescue service and the police – working together and with the sharing of fire and police stations.

“The county council feels strongly that regardless of governance arrangements, we will continue to work closely and share resources so that we can continue to keep people safe.”

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