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“There is no attempt at a power grab here” - Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service could move under governance of Police and Crime Commissioner, says report

Norfolk Police and Crime Commisssioner Lorne Green.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police and Crime Commisssioner Lorne Green. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk has denied a “power grab” as an independent report concluded he should govern the county’s Fire and Rescue Service.

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Submitted Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Submitted

An options appraisal was commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and concluded the “preferred option” for the future of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) would be to transfer it from the county council into the governance of the PCC.

The report concluded to abolish the Fire and Rescue Authority and move governance of the fire service to the PCC would be the preferred option for value for money, effectiveness and public safety.

Grant Thornton, authors of the report, admit the plan is “ambitious” and relies on the “political will” of stakeholders, including Norfolk County Council (NCC).

But on the release of the report, NCC leader Cliff Jordan said there is “no compelling case for any change”.

“Norfolk County Council (NCC) has reviewed the report in full and notes that the conclusions are finely balanced,” he said. “Therefore we do not feel it’s necessary to proceed to a full business case as this will not only incur significant costs for tax payers but also take up considerable time. We also believe that such a process would detract fire officers from their primary role of keeping Norfolk safe and have a negative impact on the upcoming NFRS inspection.”

Labour group leader at Norfolk County Council Steve Morphew added: “Nobody wants the Police and Crime Commissioner so the idea anybody would be in favour of him taking over Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is fanciful.

“It is a waste of money, undemocratic and no good for Norfolk.”

Even without the support of the county council the PCC could approach the Home Office to forge ahead with the plan.

Transferring NFRS from county council control would involve a loss of settlement funding to the council and “significant loss of assets”.

The report concluded a full merger between the fire and police services in Norfolk would not be deliverable due to the “loss of strategic independence and identity”.

After further consultation the PCC will decide whether to proceed and ask for more detailed analysis to be carried out in the form of a full business case. This would include a public consultation.

Mr Green said he had felt “duty bound” to commission the report after it became an option under the Policing and Crime Act 2017.

“My role has been completely neutral and I have never once expressed a view,” he said. “I am deliberately keeping at arms length from this.

“I do not have an agenda and there is no attempt at a power grab here.

“If the decision was there is a sufficient case the public would be able to see the possibilities and constraints of a new governing model.

“If there was a strong case to be made that governance should move we would make it work. It would be interesting to find out if the public at large are attracted to the idea of governance being shared.

“The full business case would include a public consultation. Without that we must rely on elected representatives of the community on what the public wish would be.

“I do not believe the cost of going to full business case is greater than the value to be had in keeping this county as safe as possible, and run as efficiently as possible.”

The report will be the main item of business at an extraordinary meeting of the county’s Police and Crime Panel on January 22

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