I am writing about the possibility of the Police and Crime Commissoner taking over from the Retained Firefighters Union, who represent a minority of retained firefighters in Norfolk.
During the compilation of the first feasibility study for the takeover by the PCC no one sought the views of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) . The FBU represent the vast majority of firefighters in Norfolk, which include wholetime and retained firefighters, control, officers, training school and USAR. I meet with representatives monthly and I know that all of those that I represent do not want to be taken over by the PCC. We have an excellent relationship with the people of Norfolk because we are a “humanitarian service”. If we came under the umbrella of the PCC then we would be seen as an arm of an “enforcement agency”. Would we then have the same relationship with the people of Norfolk? No one could say for definite, but my members feel that they wouldn’t.
The PCC would be the sole person in charge of the Fire Service and not the democratically elected county councillors, who are in charge of the running of the service. It is scrutinized and can be held accountable for its actions.
Lastly we have the letter of support that all Conservative MPs of Norfolk have signed expressing their unanimous support to explore the benefits of this merger. I have met with Sir Henry Bellingham, both in Norfolk and in Parliament, and have told him our concerns about the takeover by the PCC. It seems he must have gotten an overwhelmingly different view from his constituents who he is supposed to represent. If you read the letter you can see their real intent, which states: “We need to get rid of this mountain of debt, and we need as a country, and a county to drive a higher rate of economic growth and more efficient public services.” They want more efficient public services which has been their rhetoric since they came to power eight years ago and which we know means run the public services cheaper. Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is the second cheapest in the country. It means we have cut our service to the bone just as all other public services have which includes the frontline. I would ask the people of Norfolk to show their support for their Fire Service and their firefighters and oppose another feasibility study which will cost £40-50k and oppose any takeover bid by the PCC.