No need for vote at fire service table, says police and crime commissioner

Firefighters demonstrate their skills during an open day in Bury St Edmunds

Firefighters demonstrate their skills during an open day in Bury St Edmunds Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) has revealed no intention of weighing in on fire service business, despite government assent for more collaboration on decision making.

Tim Passmore said voting rights would make little difference to the constabulary’s relationship with the council-run fire service, after the Home Office brought forward legislation for more PCCs to take a seat at the table.

Changes coming into force this autumn will allow all PCCs to be represented on the local fire and rescue authority – getting voting rights on matters including finance and staffing.

Mr Passmore said: “Here in Suffolk, the fire service is part of the county council, so I’m not sure voting rights would make a great deal of difference at this stage.

“We already have a good track record of working with the fire service and have yet to find any blockages in that collaboration.”

Proposals to bring the police and fire service together under one administration were dropped last September after a £75,000 report found no clear benefits.

“At the end of last year, I said we would not go for a formal takeover, and we don’t need a change of governance or a vote to alter our relationship at this stage,” said Mr Passmore, who would be more inclined to make the request if it meant influencing the distribution of council tax.

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“Extra voting could help, but I’m not sure the net effect would be terribly significant unless the legislation allowed PCCs to change the tax precept. At the moment, that’s not clear.

“If the PCC had the ability to alter the level of precept spent on the fire service, the public could see where their money is spent.”

Under new legislation, it will be for individual fire authorities to grant requests for PCC membership.

Voting rights already apply to county and metropolitan fire authorities, and the government believes the same level of transparency should be extended to the 23 combined authorities across England, which cover more than one local authority area.

The move was backed by 91% of affected fire authorities following a consultation in November.

Minister for policing and the fire service, Nick Hurd said: “By working closer together, police and fire and rescue services can share best practice and innovative thinking to improve the services provided to local people.”