Police commissioner to make case for role in governing fire service

Police and Crime Commissioner, Councillor Jason Ablewhite

Police and Crime Commissioner, Councillor Jason Ablewhite - Credit: Archant

The police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire will invite the public to have a say on whether he should have a greater role in governing the county’s fire and rescue service.

Jason Ablewhite announced this week that he had started working with police and fire chiefs to explore options that would give him a greater role in the governance of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, with options set to be presented to the public.

New legislation enacted by the government has paved the way for police and crime commissioners to take on responsibilities for fire and rescue services in their area, where a case is made to do so.

A business case, which has been produced by consultancy firm, PA Consulting, sets out the options available in Cambridgeshire and highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Funding for the business case has, according to the commissioner, been provided by the government.

Mr Ablewhite said: “One of my roles as police and crime commissioner is to explore options for collaboration with other emergency services where there are potential benefits to be had. I believe that there are many advantages to be gained if I take on responsibility for governance of the fire service.

“Collaboration between blue light services in Cambridgeshire is already strong, especially since I took up office last year where I have been helping fire with joint estate solutions for training.

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“My proposal is not a takeover of fire and rescue services, or a merger of the roles of police officers and firefighters. The distinction between operational policing and firefighting will be maintained.

“I believe that by taking over the governance arrangements from the council-run fire authority, I can provide greater accountability and transparency of both police and fire services and can maximise resources and improve public safety.

“What this means in practice is I will be responsible for such things as decisions on how Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service spends its budget and whether new fire service facilities should be built or shared with other emergency services.”

A consultation will be launched throughout July and August before comments are considered and a business case submitted to the Home Office for consideration.

The commissioner says that, if approved, any new arrangements could be in place by April next year.