PO­LICE CHIEF IN FIRE BID

‘TAKEOVER’ MOVE FOR SER­VICE:

Western Daily Press - - Front Page - LEIGH BOOBYER news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

GLOUCES­TER­SHIRE’S po­lice chief Martin Surl has re­launched a bid that, if suc­cess­ful, would see the re­spon­si­bil­ity of run­ning the county’s fire ser­vice trans­ferred to him.

The Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner tried to take over the fire ser­vice – run un­der Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil’s um­brella – last year but was met with op­po­si­tion by coun­cil­lors who ar­gued it was a waste of tax­pay­ers’ money.

A re­port by con­sul­tancy firm Ameo, com­mis­sioned by the county coun­cil to as­sess the ef­fec­tive­ness of a merger, found it would cost tax­pay­ers £2.5 mil­lion over three years.

Mr Surl said he wants to look at the gov­er­nance of the Glouces­ter­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice (GFRS) again in light of the scan­dal that led to the res­ig­na­tion of ex-chief fire of­fi­cer Ste­wart Edgar over the sale of a ser­vice-owned ve­hi­cle.

But he de­nied it was a “takeover bid”. Coun­cil­lors have again re­jected Mr Surl’s ef­forts to al­ter the cur­rent regime. In a coun­cil meet­ing this week, Coun­cil­lor Jeremy Hil­ton urged Mr Surl to “stick to his day job”.

Mr Surl’s plan was trig­gered in 2016 when the Govern­ment said it wanted to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to al­low PCCs to take over re­spon­si­bil­ity of fire ser­vices. But the county coun­cil said at the time that the takeover would come at a cost to the tax­payer.

Mr Surl said an in­ter­nal au­dit in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fire ser­vice rec­om­mended a re­view into its struc­ture fol­low­ing “se­ri­ous fail­ures of gov­er­nance and lead­er­ship”.

Re­act­ing to the news, cabi­net mem­ber for fire Dave Nor­man said: “Martin Surl’s own re­port shows this will save no money, but the changeover will cost mil­lions.

“Glouces­ter­shire peo­ple will find it hard to un­der­stand why he is taking more money away from front-line polic­ing to spend on this. I want bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion with all three emer­gency ser­vices – which this takeover bid re­ally un­der­mines.”

Mr Hil­ton added: “There is ab­so­lutely no need to re­open a dis­cus­sion about trans­fer­ring the gov­er­nance of Glouces­ter­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice away from the county coun­cil.

“It would be much bet­ter for the county coun­cil to con­tinue to work in part­ner­ship with the po­lice to fur­ther de­velop col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­jects.”

There are cur­rently four PFCCs re­spon­si­ble for gov­er­nance of their lo­cal fire ser­vices in Es­sex, West Mer­cia, Stafford­shire and Cam­bridgeshire and oth­ers will shortly be do­ing the same.

Mr Surl said: “This is not a takeover bid and never has been. But re­cent events have re­vealed se­ri­ous fail­ures of gov­er­nance and lead­er­ship at the top of GFRS and the fire­fight­ers de­serve bet­ter. 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.

“Af­ter due con­sid­er­a­tion, and fol­low­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions from a num­ber of quar­ters in­clud­ing the Home Of­fice, staff from GFRS and the pub­lic, I have de­cided to re-ex­am­ine gov­er­nance of Glouces­ter­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice.

“I have the great­est re­spect for fire­fight­ers who al­ready play a sig­nif­i­cant role in my Po­lice and Crime Plan in road safety and my aim is to get the best re­sult for Glouces­ter­shire”.

Peo­ple will be asked “is Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil the right body to over­see the fire ser­vice?” in a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion by the PCC.

Glouces­ter­shire Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner Martin Surl

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