- “Is Gloucestershire County Council or the Police and Crime Commissioner best placed to oversee the county’s fire and rescue service? – is the question being put to local stakeholders in a public consultation.
- Fire Services are historically run by local councils but the Government believes governance by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will bring greater accountability and transparency
- Gloucestershire’s PCC Martin Surl believes the change would result in tighter governance, sustainable finances and enhanced community safety.
- The business case sets how closer collaboration between police and fire services would result in greater visibility, a better use of public buildings and a clearer understanding of what the public gets for its money.
- “This is not a takeover bid but recent events have shown the local fire service deserves better and the Prime Minister’s desire for reform has provided us with the opportunity to give firefighters that” said Mr. Surl.
- The public consultation, including key stakeholders will run until 21 December 2018
Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl is launching a public consultation over who should run Gloucestershire’s Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS).
At the heart of the consultation is whether the county council is the right body to supervise the organisation – or whether it would benefit from change.
The long-running, and often acrimonious, debate about Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service was originally triggered by the Government’s wish to see a more joined-up approach in the way police and fire services work together.
Making local fire services more accountable to the communities they serve and to see if reforms which have brought greater accountability and transparency to the police could do the same for the fire service.
The key tests the Government applies to each local case are whether reform would be in the “interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness or public safety”.
Mr. Surl said, “After careful consideration, and following representations from a number of quarters including the Home Office, staff from GFRS and local people, I have decided to re-examine governance of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service.
“This decision has been justified by the recent publication of the council’s own internal audit report following recent whistleblowing concerns which, among other things, recommended a review of Fire and Rescue Service governance.
“I have the greatest respect for the fire and rescue service which already plays a significant role in my Police and Crime Plan in road safety. My aim from the consultation is to ensure we get the best fire and rescue service for Gloucestershire.
“This is not a takeover bid and never has been. But when you consider the benefits we’ve seen in terms of openness, accountability and transparency in respect of the police service, if that can be applied to the fire service then it is an opportunity we should explore”.
Under the Policing and Crime Act, which became law last year, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners (PFCCs) can assume responsibility for both services or they can be run by one chief officer under a PFCC.
The final decision will be made by the Home Secretary based on the evidence of the consultation and where a local case is made.
In 2017, Martin Surl began a local discussion about governance of the fire service. However, following extensive opposition the PCC decided to suspend reform last September, but only on the county council’s assertion its existing governance arrangements were sound and an assurance that progress would be made towards closer collaboration between police and fire.
Mr. Surl said, “Recent developments within GFRS have led me to review my decision and I have therefore asked that earlier work carried out by PA Consulting be reviewed and refreshed by staff within my team.
“The findings of this report are clear. Bringing fire and rescue and police services closer together under the same governance will enable both agencies to fulfil their statutory functions better, working collectively to make Gloucestershire a safer place to live and work by enhancing community safety.
“Furthermore, the changes that a new and more transparent governance arrangement will bring will result in greater financial sustainability, transparency and cost effectiveness for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, none of which is possible under the current governance arrangements”.
There are currently four PCCs responsible for governance of their local fire services in Essex, West Mercia, Staffordshire and Cambridgeshire and others will shortly be doing the same.
Members of the public and other stakeholders can make their views on how they believe the fire and rescue service should be governed in future in a number of ways.