Plans for joint governance of police and fire services scrapped

Plans for Thames Valley’s police commissioner to take control and govern the fire service have been scrapped.

Anthony Stansfeld, police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, said after discussions with the three fire and rescue services in the area, a decision had been made to not combine the governance of them with the force.

Cases were made earlier this year for the PCC to take on joint governance of the emergency services to save money and create more collaboration between firefighters and police officers.

Calls were also made for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire fire services to combine to form one Thames Valley Fire Service, just like the police force, in order to make such a merger smoother.

But after a serious of meetings with fire chiefs, the PCC agreed to not go ahead with any governance chances in the ‘foreseeable future’.

Today Mr Stansfeld said his office would continue to explore and develop ‘more collaboration options’ between the police and fire services to ‘deliver operational and financial benefits to the public’.

He added: “Within the Thames Valley we are in the complex and unique position of having three fire and rescue services and over the last few months I have had regular discussions with fire and rescue authority representatives and local authority stakeholders to consider potential collaboration and governance change options and developing a possible joint way forward.

“I recognise that the three Thames Valley fire and rescue services have already achieved a high level of operational collaboration, not only between themselves and other public sector partners but with Thames Valley Police as well.

“This collaboration can be seen in the many combined police and fire service joint hubs that have been set up in several towns within the Thames Valley.”

To save on running costs, some fire services now share bases with neighbourhood police teams.

The Government has said further collaboration between police forces and fire services present ‘a real opportunity to increase their efficiency and effectiveness’.

It is understood the three fire services remaining independent from one another is stumbling block in progressing to a combined governance.

The Home Office revealed plans last year to put a single chief officer in charge of both the fire service and police – which would be appointed and held to account by the PCC.

This officer would act as a chief constable but the position would be open to senior police officers and firefighters.

Currently in the UK, fire services are run by fire authorities or councils. Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service is operated by the county council.

Last month Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary announced the creation of the first ever Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner in Essex – a move that the Fire Brigades Union branded ‘reckless’.

The union fears the move will put the independence and neutrality of the fire service at risk as well as resulting in more frontline cuts.

Judith Heathcoat, deputy leader Oxfordshire County Council and the cabinet member for the fire service, welcomed the ‘opportunity’ to look for further collaboration opportunities.