Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Stephen Mold, will become the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner after the Home Office approved plans for the governance of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service to transfer to the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner from Northamptonshire County Council.
Governmental approval of the business case submitted by Commissioner Mold’s Office follows a public consultation in the county last year, which revealed over 60% of respondents were in favour of a change of governance.
The eight-week consultation sought opinions from people from across the county, including fire service employees, police personnel, and staff from Northamptonshire County Council. Fire service employees were significantly in favour of the change, with 92% agreeing with the transfer plans.
Although no firm date has yet been set, governance of the Fire and Rescue Service will move to Commissioner Mold’s Office this autumn. The change in governance will result in the public being able to hold a single individual – the new Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner – to account for the performance of the Fire and Rescue Service, through voting at the ballot box. The new PFCC will replace the current County Council Fire Authority, which is made up of 57 councillors.
Under this new model, the Commissioner will hold the Chief Fire Officer to account for service performance in exactly the same way as the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police is held to account for policing services. The Chief Fire Officer and Chief Constable will continue to be operationally independent from one another and responsible for the day to day running of their respective services. The services will keep their separate uniforms, and carry on delivering separate skills.
However, collaboration between the two organisations will be enhanced to increase efficiency and allow the frontline to be protected as much as possible.
All assets relating to the fire and rescue service, including its budget, fire appliances, vehicles, equipment and buildings will transfer to the Commissioner’s office. The PFCC will also be the employer of fire and rescue staff.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Stephen Mold, said:
“Closer collaboration between the police and the fire service can bring real benefits to our communities so I am delighted that the Home Office has approved the business case, and agree that our vision for greater blue light integration is the right step forward for Northamptonshire. I am confident this change in governance is in the best interests of everyone in the county.
“Our police and fire services already work collaboratively and have led the way nationally on joint working – sharing buildings, vehicles and having joint operational teams. However, we know there is much more we can do together to make Northamptonshire safer, and I am excited that we are now in a position to progress this work.
“The fire service in Northamptonshire has faced significant funding cuts for a number of years. It was always my ambition to increase investment in the service, particularly in the frontline. We can now make this ambition a reality. The governance change provides us with a real to opportunity make savings and use those funds to reinvest back into front-line services.
“There is scope for developing more aligned strategic plans for police and fire and increasing further collaboration. We would look at opportunities for joint attendance at incidents, providing joint crime and fire prevention advice, sharing more buildings and support functions, and having joint procurement. This would both increase effectiveness and efficiency.”
The budget for the fire service was previously part of Northamptonshire County Council’s overall budget. However, under the new governance arrangements, this budget will now transfer to the Commissioner and be ring-fenced and collected as part of each household’s council tax.
The fire and rescue service precept will be shown separately from the total council tax – just as the police precept currently is – to ensure transparency for tax payers.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will then allocate a budget to the Chief Fire Officer to run the organisation, in the same way he does currently with the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police.
Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for transport, highways, environment and public protection, Cllr Ian Morris, said:
“We have proudly supported and invested into our county Fire and Rescue Service and now have one of the UK’s leading services.
“We developed strong and influential community safety links across the globe, and I’m proud that Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue was the first to fully introduce the COBRA system of firefighting, which enables firefighters to tackle blazes externally to a building, creating a safer way of fighting fires and protecting our crews and the community. We have trained many other fire services in the UK and internationally in its effectiveness and look forward to the further delivery of the training and new equipment plans established in Northamptonshire.
“We have supported the bid to bring Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service under the governance of the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner as it enables our local emergency services to further build on the blue light integration we’ve been working on since 2013.
“As a local authority, we look forward to continuing to work with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service through our Trading Standards, public health and other areas of joint working.”
Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey added:
“I am pleased the wait is over and we now know who will be governing the fire and rescue service and can begin to develop our plans for the future.
“Ensuring that we are able to keep the people of Northamptonshire safe is our number one priority and I am very much looking forward to working with Stephen Mold to develop a strategic vision for the fire service that supports the needs of the communities we serve.
“We are also looking forward to building on our existing collaborations with the police while retaining our operational independence and identity. I believe joint governance is a positive change that helps to sustain our services and in the longer term will provide the people of Northamptonshire with a more joined up and effective emergency response.”
Minister for Policing and Fire, Nick Hurd, commented:
“Collaboration presents a real opportunity to improve the services provided to the people of Northamptonshire.
“There is strong local support for these proposals, which will encourage innovative thinking, joint working and the sharing of best practice.
“Having a directly accountable leader overseeing both policing and fire will also help maximise resources and drive transformation. I look forward to seeing the benefits this change will bring.