Norfolk County Council ‘can’t afford to run fire service’

Fire service news EMN-161128-095807001
Fire service news EMN-161128-095807001

Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner could take over the management of the county’s fire service, according to a Swaffham councillor.

Paul Smyth has called for the issue to be examined amid the prospect of further cuts to the brigade’s budget.

And current police commissioner Lorne Green said opportunities for closer collaboration between the emergency services should be pursued.

Mr Smyth tabled two motions ahead of Monday’s Norfolk County Council meeting, voicing concerns about the authority’s management of the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS).

In one, he demanded action to protect the service’s “operational effectiveness”, adding: “To choose not to do so would be a dereliction of duty.”

In the other, he wrote: “For years, NCC has limited the funding it provides NFRS, and it now spends less per head of the population on our fire and rescue services than any other fire authority in the country does.

“The service is already experiencing serious difficulties.

“With Norfolk’s growing and significantly ageing population, more traffic on its roads and plans for tens of thousands of new homes in the county, NFRS is facing an increasingly precarious situation.

“As NCC is demanding further cuts to NFRS it evidently cannot afford to provide the service with the funding it needs to meet the growing demands being placed on it.”

He said the authority should look at options to transfer management of the service to the commissioner, after it failed to allocate any of an extra £7.7 million of central government cash to the fire service earlier this year.

However, neither of Mr Smyth’s motions will be debated after senior councillors decided that only one from each political group would go forward. Eleven separate motions, on a range of subjects, had been put forward.

Mr Green said yesterday: “I welcome the current close collaboration between the county’s constabulary and fire and rescue service. The services are sharing some buildings, intelligence and resources.

“I believe there are opportunities for more effective and better value emergency services through even closer collaboration in the future.

“The government has made it clear that it will enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services, but only where a local case is made.”