TODAY it has been revealed that Matthew Ellis, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire is to take over the governance arrangements of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The Government’s decision is the result of an independent and in-depth business case developed with the PCC’s office, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Staffordshire Police. The practical changes will start to happen over the coming weeks and months.
It will mean Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority, which is made up of 21 councillors from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council, will cease to exist in due course.
The news was broken today (Monday) by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd when it was announced that teh PCC’s in Cambridgeshire and West Mercia will also take control of their Fire Services.
Staffordshire’s PCC Matthew Ellis said: “The change to governance and oversight will not affect frontline operations of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. Officers and staff should not be unduly worried – it’s entirely business as usual.
“This is an opportunity to further improve the way the police and the fire service work together and to ensure more of the funding available goes to frontline services.
“Staffordshire is a large and diverse county and it’s important the future for both services is financially more secure with a period of stability to get on with the difficult jobs they do.
“I’m sure everyone would want to thank the various City Councillors and County Councillors for their time on the Fire and Rescue Authority.’
The PCC’s office will soon start a series of engagement events with officers and staff and also publish outline plans for the new arrangements.
A 10-month independent internal review across Staffordshire, a report titled “Is there a case for full integration?” was published in December 2016.
The report provided a number of recommendations and examples of how fire and police services could integrate within a single organisation whilst retaining the unique and separate services they provide to the public. A copy of the report can be viewed here: www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk/transformation/
In a letter which has been seen by Tamworth Informed, and was sent to the twelve MP’s that cover Staffordshire, Rt Hon Nick Hurd MP, the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service says: “I am aware that a number of you have expressed your support for greater collaboration between the emergency services under the PCC model, or have engaged with your local authorities in order to listen to any concerns they may have about the PCC’s proposal. I thank you for taking the time to do so.
“Both Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council objected to the PCC’s proposal to take on fire. As required by legislation, an independent assessment of the proposal was therefore commissioned and was undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting. This is being published today in the interests of transparency.
“I can assure you that careful consideration was given to the PCC’s proposal, all representations from statutory consultees and stakeholders, the PCC’s response to them and the independent assessment before the Home Secretary reached her decision. Having regard to all the materials, the Home Secretary and I consider that the proposal has no adverse effect on public safety and is in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.”
Michael Fabricant, the Member of Parliament for Neighbouring Lichfield has told Tamworth Informed: “I am delighted and relieved that the Home Office has today (26th March 2018) announced their decision to bring the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service under the control of the Police and Crime Commissioner” says Michael Fabricant. “This is very good news for the people of Staffordshire and firefighters based at fire stations who have seen their capabilities eroded.
“I have been increasingly more alarmed over the past few years with some of the decisions made by the senior management of the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service which were then rubber-stamped by uncritical and, at best, docile members of the Fire Authority.
“These included a decision to establish a multimillion pound fire prevention ‘theme park’ in Stafford which my constituents would be unlikely to ever visit and then was subsequently rejected after pressure from MPs, and the refurbishment of the fire station in Lichfield costing hundreds of thousands of pounds but with fewer firefighting vehicles.
“Only this weekend, I heard from a whistleblower in the Ambulance Service about practices being adopted by the Fire Service which are unprofessional and potentially life-threatening. I will now be taking these matters up with Matthew Ellis, the Staffordshire Police & Crime Commissioner.
“These changes will result in millions of pounds worth of annual savings in back-office administration functions which can now be redirected into frontline firefighting services.
“This is excellent news for Staffordshire.”