The Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, Rt Hon. Brandon Lewis MP, visited Northamptonshire today (Friday, 10 March) to meet with police and fire chiefs and find out more about the ongoing collaboration and interoperability between the county’s police and fire services.
The Minister was given a tour of Mereway Fire and Police Station in Northampton, one of three operational bases where both police officers and fire-fighters are based, taking the opportunity to speak with frontline officers and staff about the benefits of joint-working teams and sharing accommodation with other emergency service colleagues.
Mr Lewis was also given a demonstration of the new Joint Command Unit, a bespoke mobile operational command vehicle commissioned jointly by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police.
The first of its type in the UK, the high-tech vehicle features a command conference room for joint tactical coordination, while the built-in technology includes the ability to receive and view footage from remote static cameras, body worn cameras, an unmanned aerial system and the police helicopter.
It has been designed and equipped to aid joint working during large scale or major incidents, and provides emergency services with an innovative and flexible vehicle, able to support varying operational scenarios.
The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service said:
“It was a pleasure to visit Mereway Fire and Police Station today and to see great examples of collaboration taking place between Northamptonshire Police Fire and Rescue Service.
“Northamptonshire is leading by example. Shared police and fire headquarters and joint command units like this bring real benefits and savings to the local community and are exactly the type of innovative collaboration I want to see across the country.
“Through the Policing and Crime Act, the Government is giving the emergency services the platform to drive further collaboration and I want them all to embrace this opportunity.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said:
“Northamptonshire really is leading the way in emergency service collaboration and this was a very welcome opportunity to outline to the Minister exactly how our public services are working together to make Northamptonshire safer.
“The new Joint Command Unit is a fantastic example of this and I’m sure it will inspire other areas across England and Wales to consider similar initiatives.
“I announced in my Police and Crime Plan that we would be developing a business case for the governance of the Fire and Rescue Service to move from the County Council to my Office. It was extremely valuable to be able to speak with the Minister around his thoughts of progression in this area, and it is something we will be consulting the people of the county on in a couple of months’ time, to understand their opinion before ultimately setting out our intentions.”
Northamptonshire County Council deputy leader and cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage said:
“Our successful ongoing collaboration work with Northamptonshire Police and other blue light partners is enabling us to improve and expand our services by sharing work practices, buildings and resources.
“For example, we now have a joint prevention and protection team with the police, and moves like this are helping Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police to better support the more vulnerable within our community.
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service to talk him through our collaborative work, particularly the new Joint Command Unit, and our ongoing work to make Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service a modern, fit-for-the-future service.”
The Joint Command Unit and sharing of premises, including a shared headquarters, is one of a number of collaborative projects that Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service have undertaken over the past few years.
The joint police and fire Prevention and Community Protection Department was set up in 2014, bringing together the expertise of the police community safety department and fire service community services under a single management structure.
The Joint Operations Team (JOT), also formed in 2014, combined a number of functions, including planning for major events and emergency response to major incidents, football intelligence and coordination of operational policy and procedure.
The pilot of two Rural Intervention Vehicles in the north and south of the county demonstrated that the jointly crewed vehicles are a valuable resource which provide added value to both police and fire operations, and plans are now underway to develop this further.
In addition to the co-location of police and firefighters at fire stations in Thrapston, Rushden and Mereway, officers based in other areas are able to access and make use of the facilities at retained fire stations across the county, allowing them to remain on their beat area for longer without having to return to a police station.
The development in Rushden was the first to bring together Fire, Police and Ambulance and have all three emergency services operating from the same premises.
Other areas of work, including training and shared stores and vehicle maintenance, are also ongoing.