Government to have final say as police commissioner makes formal bid to run county fire service

Police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite.

Police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire’s police and crime commissioner has pressed ahead with plans to take charge of the county’s fire service.

Jason Ablewhite submitted a formal bid to become police, fire and crime commissioner to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Amber Rudd, in October, with a decision expected early in the new year. Mr Ablewhite is pursuing a model that would see him take over the functions of the current fire authority, which is made up of elected members of Cambridgeshire County Council.

In order to win approval from the Government, Mr Ablewhite was asked to prepare a business case, setting out why the proposal was is in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, whilst having no adverse effect on public safety.

The report was compiled by independent external advisors, PA Consulting, a firm appointed by the office of the commissioner and the fire authority.

According to Mr Ablewhite’s business case, the move could save £1.69million in allowances for fire authority members, and “financial benefits” of £4.34million through the better use of police and fire service buildings. In his letter to the Government, Mr Ablewhite said: “Having studied the issue in detail for several months I am convinced that, under police and crime commissioner leadership, the governance of Cambridgeshire’s fire service can be strengthened offering greater transparency and accountability, speedier decision making and closer working between the services.

“This conviction has been strengthened by the positive public support demonstrated through the consultation and I know that this is the right thing to do both for the services involved and for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

Earlier in the year, Mr Ablewhite launched a public consultation to gauge support for his plans, with the process taking place over a period of nine weeks.

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Some 2,426 responses to the consultation were received, with 1,276 (about 53 per cent) in agreement with the commissioner’s plan. There were 931 responses received that disagreed with the proposal – equating to about 39 per cent. The remaining correspondents neither agreed nor disagreed.

Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council were also consulted but were opposed to the move.

In a report to Cambridgeshire’s police and crime panel, held on November 15, it was noted: The secretary of state must now obtain an independent assessment of the commissioner’s proposal and then have regard to that assessment when making a decision on the proposal.

“The Home Office has indicated that it is expected to make a decision on any submissions within three months of receipt.”