King’s Lynn union group rejects plan to switch fire service governance to police commissioner

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A West Norfolk trade union group has signalled its opposition to plans which could see control of the county’s fire service transferred to the police commissioner’s office.

A business case for transferring governance away from Norfolk County Council is currently being prepared and is due to be completed this summer.

But members of the Lynn and District Trades Council have now joined county councillors in declaring their opposition to the idea, following a meeting this week.

Secretary Jo Rust said: “As a humanitarian service, not an enforcement service, they don’t naturally align with the police.

“They are operating a service that liaises with the community on traditional and neutral terms.

“This proposal is a step which could compromise their neutral place within the community with no discernible benefit.”

Police and crime commissioner (PCC) Lorne Green, who defended his decision to commission a full business case for the switch at a police and crime panel meeting on Tuesday, has insisted he does not want to merge the two services.

He says his prime motive is to ensure the services are as cost-effective as possible.

He has also maintained that he is not biased in favour of one option or another and will be “guided by the evidence” presented when the study is complete, with any firm proposals going out to public consultation before decisions are made.

But the trades council says it is worried that such a measure could be a means of diverting fire service funding towards stretched police budgets.

Mrs Rust added: “The Fire Service already work collaboratively with the constabulary, sharing headquarters, estates, a control room and back office functions.”

County councillors have also claimed an initial study, published in January, did not provide sufficient justification for pursuing the plan, despite Mr Green arguing that it did.

It said transferring governance structures to the PCC’s office was the best option if a local consensus could be achieved.

Without that, it said that maintaining the current system with “refreshed and strengthened arrangements” would have to be considered.

However, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, last month approved plans for a similar transfer of responsibility in Cambridgeshire, despite the opposition of councillors there. The move is expected to be implemented this summer.