COUNTY council chiefs have given the thumbs down to controversial proposals which could see West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner take over the running of the county’s fire service.
John Campion has proposed to axe both the Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority and its sister group in Shropshire and bring their functions under his remit in a bid to save £4million a year.
However the move has created a storm of criticism from councillors and fire chiefs especially in Shropshire who claim they have already identified £2million of savings in the next financial year.
Should the move be approved at the end of the consultation process by the Home Secretary the changes would come into effect in 2020.
It would mean local communities would have the chance to elect a local police, fire and crime commissioner.
During a meeting at County Hall on Thursday, Worcestershire county councillors unanimously approved a response to Mr Campion which said the move would not be in the interest of improving public safety or the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the service.
Coun Paul Middleborough introduced the debate and called for a ‘reasonable, measured and fact-based response’ to the consultation.
“I suspect that a majority of members will be opposed to the commissioner taking over responsibility for the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority,” he said.
“To show this isn’t party political, if the previous Police and Crime Commissioner had made a similar proposal I suspect it would have met with similar opposition.
“As the debate has developed over the last few weeks, I have heard no significant support for these proposals, a lot of anger and somewhat opportunistic and necessary personal attacks on the commissioner.”
“We want to see fire safety improved but we think there are much better ways of doing that.”
Coun Andy Fry backed the motion and labelled the business case put forward by Mr Campion as ‘poor, with gaps, holes and a lack of detail’.
“We should keep the Fire Authority together, working with Shropshire, working with Telford and Wrekin and not being messed into the hole which the Police and Crime Commissioner is becoming,” he said,
“That is a job and a half without devaluing the Fire Authority.
Coun Fran Oborski said: “I am on record to say if that is a business case then I am the sugar plum fairy!”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Campion said: “I am listening to views from our communities right across the West Mercia area as part of this consultation, and look forward to receiving the council’s response.”