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PCC to explore full benefits of future police and fire governance

A thorough and detailed assessment should be carried out into future options for fire and rescue and police governance in Norfolk, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner has decided.

Announcing his decision to explore further whether a new governance model could produce real and tangible benefits for emergency services in the county, Lorne Green said his first duty was to the people of Norfolk.

“As a servant of the public I believe it is incumbent on me to explore fully any change that could offer the possibility of keeping the people of Norfolk even safer, and to provide them with the most cost-effective emergency services for their hard-earned tax pounds. I bring no personal bias or agenda to this exploration; I will be guided by the evidence.

“Last month I received an initial report from independent experts which concluded that there was enough evidence to warrant a more detailed and thorough look into future governance options.

“Having listened to numerous stakeholders and interested parties, and carefully weighed up the evidence before me, I have decided that we should proceed to a full exploration of whether safer, more efficient and effective emergency services can be provided for Norfolk residents, businesses and visitors. This process also, importantly, allows for the people of Norfolk to have their direct say.

“Upon development of a business case, were it to recommend strongly a new governance model, before any decision was taken it would be put to Norfolk residents in an extensive countywide consultation so that the evidence can be weighed in public and in detail; which is the way it should be. Development of a business case in due course can inform an evidence-based discussion of the future of public safety in our county in which everyone can participate.

“I do want to make it clear, however, that I am not interested in pursuing a potential merger of the two services. I have for long stated that I respect the clear identities, professionalisms and cultures of the police and the fire and rescue services. We simply are exploring what benefits there could be for the people of Norfolk in a new way to govern the services, to make them safer and more secure.”

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 (which became law in April 2017) included provision enabling Police and Crime Commissioners to take responsibility for the governance of local fire and rescue services, “where a local case is made”. Any local case would have to meet the specific criteria of effectiveness, economy and efficiency and public safety. Similar considerations currently are at various stages of development across the country with Essex being the first county to move to a shared governance model.

In January an Options Appraisal compiled by independent consultants Grant Thornton, who have experience in this specific area, assessed four possible changes to governance in Norfolk.* The report favoured a new model whereby the governance of both the fire and rescue service and the police come under the Police and Crime Commissioner. While this was the consultants’ conclusion, the detailed evidence to make a decision is not yet available.

The PCCs decision to proceed means more detailed analysis will now be carried out in the form of a Full Business Case. If that Case produces important evidence for change, it will be put to the people of Norfolk in a public consultation.

Once the final report is complete, it will be for the PCC to decide whether to submit a case for change to the Home Office.

The four options, supported under the Policing and Crime Act 2017, were:

  • continue with the Fire and Rescue Authority as part of Norfolk County Council and continue with collaboration where appropriate
  • continue with the Fire and Rescue Authority as part of Norfolk County Council but give the PCC a position on the Fire and Rescue Authority (embodied by a Council Committee)
  • move the Fire and Rescue Service under the governance of the PCC but keep it independent of the existing Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
  • move the Fire and Rescue Authority under the governance of the PCC by creating a single organisation that includes both police and fire under command and control of a new Emergency Services Chief Officer.