Po­lice tsar’s bid to take over fire ser­vice is dis­missed as ‘need­less’

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS - JAMES REED PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR Email: james.reed@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @JamesReedYP

NORTH York­shire po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner Ju­lia Mul­li­gan’s plan to take over the county’s fire ser­vice has suf­fered a fresh blow.

The idea was branded “to­tally need­less” and “high-risk” as the North York­shire po­lice and crime panel re­jected the case for the over­haul.

North York­shire County Coun­cil and York Coun­cil have al­ready voiced their op­po­si­tion to the move, although the Fire Brigades Union has come out in favour of the change.

Mrs Mul­li­gan has pro­posed tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fire ser­vice as well as the po­lice to help im­prove col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two ser­vices and save money.

Her pro­posal sug­gests £6.6m could be saved over 10 years if her of­fice took the place of the North York­shire Fire and Res­cue Au­thor­ity, which cur­rently holds the fire ser­vice to ac­count.

The po­lice and crime panel, which holds Mrs Mul­li­gan to ac­count in her role, joined York Coun­cil and North York­shire in rec­om­mend­ing that she should in­stead be given a seat on the fire au­thor­ity.

Panel vice-chair­man Peter Wilkin­son said: “Such a dras­tic change in gov­er­nance of the fire ser­vice is to­tally need­less in North York­shire. We un­der­stand that there are parts of the coun­try with un­der-per­form­ing fire ser­vices where this gov­er­nance model may ap­peal.

“How­ever, we have an ef­fec­tive fire au­thor­ity with strong lead­er­ship, which has taken for­ward a num­ber of good col­lab­o­ra­tive ini­tia­tives with other part­ners, such as the health sec­tor.

“Tak­ing a very nar­row fo­cus on push­ing po­lice and fire to­gether risks ex­clud­ing such valu­able part­ner­ships and re­duc­ing the range of col­lab­o­ra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties that would ben­e­fit com­mu­ni­ties.”

The pro­posal set out by Mrs Mul­li­gan ar­gued mak­ing her ac­count­able for the fire ser­vice would “make trans­for­ma­tional change more likely” and “bring more sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits that could be rein­vested in front-line ser­vices”.

Coun Wilkin­son said: “The po­lice and crime panel agrees with the gen­eral prin­ci­ple of im­prov­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion for the ben­e­fit of com­mu­ni­ties and where it also achieves sav­ings that can be rein­vested into front-line ser­vices.

“But the po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner’s pro­posal goes too far.

“She is ask­ing the pub­lic – and we as part­ners – to agree to a pro­posal which is very high-risk, lack­ing in any de­tailed as­sess­ment of what it would achieve and which, crit­i­cally, can­not be re­versed if things go wrong.”

Un­der the op­tion pre­ferred by the po­lice and crime panel, North York­shire County Coun­cil and York Coun­cil, Mrs Mul­li­gan would be­come the 17th mem­ber of the fire au­thor­ity rather than re­plac­ing the body.

She would also sit on a “col­lab­o­ra­tion sub-com­mit­tee” fo­cused on the po­lice and fire ser­vice work­ing more closely.

North York­shire County Coun­cil leader Carl Les has de­scribed this as a “stepped ap­proach”, al­low­ing for more rad­i­cal re­forms later if re­quired.

But in her re­port set­ting out the case for tak­ing over the fire ser­vice, Mrs Mul­li­gan ar­gued that merely tak­ing a seat on the cur­rent fire au­thor­ity was “un­likely to drive a sig­nif­i­cant change in the pace or scale of col­lab­o­ra­tion” and would not “de­liver sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings”.

Mrs Mul­li­gan is con­duct­ing a sur­vey of pub­lic views on the pro­pos­als at www.nor­thy­ork shire-pcc.gov.uk/work­ing­bet­ter to­gether.

We have an ef­fec­tive fire au­thor­ity with strong lead­er­ship. North York­shire po­lice and crime panel vice-chair­man Peter Wilkin­son.

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