Norfolk County Council committee rejects call to switch fire service governance to police commissioner

Lincs Fire and Rescue news.  Photo supplied.
Lincs Fire and Rescue news. Photo supplied.
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A Norfolk County Council committee has rejected claims that it should no longer oversee the workings of the county’s fire service.

A report published last week suggested that the office of the police and crime commissioner (PCC), Lorne Green, should take over the governance of the service.

But the idea was unanimously opposed at a meeting of the county council’s communities committee, which currently has responsibility for fire service issues, today.

Its chairman, Margaret Dewsbury, said afterwards: “Councillors from all parties were of the shared view that there should be no change.

“It has always been stated that there must be a compelling case to make changes to the way the fire service is managed and we do not feel this report provides enough justification to progress to a full business case.”

The report, which was commissioned by Mr Green’s office, was sought following a change in the law which allows PCCs to take over fire services where a local case can be made for change.

But the document stopped short of recommending such a change and also warned that the PCC’s office should only take on fire service governance, whilst maintaining service independence, if a consensus for the change could be reached.

If there is no such consensus, it recommends further co-operation within the existing arrangements.

The findings are due to be debated at a special meeting of the county’s police and crime panel on Monday.

But Mrs Dewsbury said the fire service was “intimately integrated” with several county council departments, including trading standards and road safety.

She added: “It makes sense that it continues to be part of the authority. The cost to tax payers, disruption to fire officers and time it would take to make changes to the governance would be considerable, whilst providing few or no benefits.

“We will respond formally to the PCC with strong recommendations that they do not proceed to a full business case and that NFRS continues to be governed by Norfolk County Council.”

Mr Green has said he will hold further talks with other bodies before making a decision on whether to proceed with the project.