Norfolk police commissioner launches consultation on plan for his office to oversee fire service
Norfolk's police and crime commissioner has today announced plans for a public consultation on whether his office should manage the county's fire service.
Lorne Green says the proposal could save millions of pounds and improve collaboration between the two services.
But Norfolk County Council, which currently oversees the service, says there is "no clear evidence" to support the savings claim and the scheme could risk the closure of some fire stations.
The announcement comes after Mr Green's office commissioned external consultants to examine whether a business case for change could be made, following the introduction of a new law last year which made it a legal duty for the emergency services to work together.
Mr Green said: “There are some great examples of joint working between Norfolk Constabulary and Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service already underway but, if we are honest, successes have too often been slow, patchy and complicated.
"I’m not interested in a merger. We are talking about two distinct services with distinct cultures, histories and traditions. That would not change.
"But a change of governance would allow us to do more to make our communities even safer."
Under the proposal, Mr Green would become the county's police, fire and crime commissioner, though he maintains the fire service would retain financial and operational independence, as well as its own culture.
A business case for the switch, which has been published today, argues it would save £10 million over 10 years and make collaboration between the services easier.
But Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of the Norfolk County Council communities committee, which oversees the fire service at the moment, said they were "unconvinced" by the commissioner's claims.
She said: "There is no clear evidence that any savings would be easier to achieve through a change in governance as opposed to continuing our very successful track record of collaboration and joint working.
"The PCC has admitted that upfront costs to change the governance structure would be needed and that is money that would need to be found now.
"We are also concerned that the majority of the suggested £10m savings over 10 years would be delivered through buildings rationalisation – therefore putting the future of our fire stations at risk across a county the size of Norfolk.
"The key difference between the two organisations is that the police service is organised based on demand, whilst fire and rescue is based on risk. The business case fails to recognise this fundamental principle."
The consultation, called A Case for Change, will run until September 5.
People can have their say by taking the online survey at www.norfolk-pcc.gov.uk, phoning 01953 424455, emailing TellLorne@norfolk.pnn.police.uk or writing to OPCCN, Building 8, Jubilee House, Falconers Chase, Wymondham, Norfolk, NR18 0WW.
Mr Green also plans to visit communities across the county during the consultation period.