- The majority of people who took part in a recent consultation, indicated they would support the creation of a Police and Fire Commissioner taking over responsibility for governance of the Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS)
- When all the responses were analysed, 55% were in favour of reform
- PCC Martin Surl said, “Taking into account the funding we received from the Home Office, this entire process has cost local tax payers just over £30k when a conservative analysis also shows that an at least £4m worth of efficiencies can be generated over the next 10 years by adopting the new approach
- The updated business case for change has been sent to the Home Office where the final decision will be taken by the Home Secretary
Analysis of the recent consultation over who should govern Gloucestershire’s Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) shows a clear majority in favour of taking the responsibility away from the county council and placing it with the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
The research was carried out online, in public and through questionnaires in public buildings. It produced statistically significant results both demographically and in quantity.
Respondents included GFRS employees, Gloucestershire Constabulary staff and the general public. When all the responses were analysed, 55% were in favour of reform.
All the information gathered during the consultation has been incorporated into the business case compiled by PCC Martin Surl which can be summarised as follows:
- Gloucestershire’s Police and Fire and Rescue Service share coterminous boundaries
- Much of the county is rural in nature and would benefit greatly from the more visible presence closer alignment would bring.
- Both services have their headquarters in adjacent buildings on the same campus.
- The additional but complementary skill sets of both services would lead to exciting training opportunities and an even more professional and enhanced workforce.
- Research shows an appetite for change within both services and amongst the public.
- A conservative analysis also shows that that an estimated £4m worth of efficiencies can be generated over the next 10 years by adopting this new approach, with scope for even greater savings under the opportunities afforded by this reform.
The updated document has now been sent to the Home Office. The final decision on whether or not to make the PCC commissioner for fire as well as police rests with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Mr. Surl said, “Like the police, our firefighters do an incredible job and are greatly valued but it’s clear that the consultation bears out my belief that taking away control from the county council would lead to significant gains around community safety and for the fire service itself.
“An independent fire service would have its own ring-fenced budget that would enable it to plan for the future. It could align itself more closely with the other emergency services and that would lead to tangible benefits for the public too.
“GFRS would still be run by fire service professionals, just as the police is run by the Chief Constable, because this is not, and never has been, an operational takeover.
“This process was a statutory obligation imposed on all PCCs by the Home Office who paid for most of it. Despite suggestions to the contrary, the work carried out by my office cost a little over £30k, which compared to an estimated £4m worth of efficiencies which can be achieved over the next 10 years by adopting the new approach, seems to me excellent value for money.
“I believe the case for change is a compelling one but the final decision rests with the Home Secretary. My only disappointment is that having been asked to look into fire service governance by the Government, the county council’s continued opposition and blatant lack of co-operation has made this a far more expensive, difficult and acrimonious process than it needed to have been”.
When the issue was opened to general discussion in October, it was the second time in just over a year the PCC had questioned whether the county council was the right body to supervise the organisation – or whether the Fire and Rescue Service would benefit from change.
You can find out more about governance and what reform might mean by clicking here.
Click here for answers to the most frequently asked questions.
The options for change
- No change / status quo: This would mean Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service remain part of the County Council and collaboration is progressed on a voluntary basis.
- Representation: This is where the PCC would become a formal part of the existing governance for fire and rescue in GCC, with full voting rights. Gloucestershire County Council rejected this as an option.
- Governance: Here the PCC takes on responsibility for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service in much the same way he currently does for Gloucestershire Constabulary. The role would become the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. Police and fire would retain their own chief officers and staff and be operationally independent of each another. This is the option favoured by the PCC.
- Single employer: This is where the PCC would take on responsibility for fire alongside the police and also appoint a single chief officer for both services. Front-line services would remain distinct but support services would be increasingly integrated.