Plans to transfer Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority to the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner put on hold - The Evesham Observer

Plans to transfer Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority to the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner put on hold

Evesham Editorial 21st Jun, 2020   0

THE PLANS to transfer the responsibility of the area’s Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA) to the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) have been put on hold.

The news was revealed in a letter from the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service Kit Malthouse MP who said the transfer by the Home Office would be delayed until at least next May – after the next PPC elections.

Mr Malthouse added that, as the initial decision was approved more than two years ago – in March 2018, the whole business case needed to be reviewed to ensure it was the right decision.

The exceptional circumstances arising from Covid-19 and the time needed to implement the necessary legislation were also cited in the delay.

The announcement was welcomed by Coun Roger Phillips, chairman of the FRA, who said it was right the public had the chance to express their views at the polling stations next May.

“We believe the existing arrangements form a tried and trusted system which is to the benefit of the Service and to the communities which it serves.

He said he hoped the PCC would fully engage with Fire Authorities to ensure over the coming months so any final proposals were both transparent and took on board the need for maintaining both the capacity and resilience of the two fire services concerned – Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire.

That, he added, would protect the local communities now and in the future, rather than just ‘focusing on theoretical ways to save money that could have a detrimental impact on the quality of services’.

“In the meantime, we will continue to work with Shropshire FRS in the Fire Alliance to improve effectiveness and resilience and will continue to work in partnership with West Mercia Police.”

West Mercia PCC John Campion said the business case to save £4million in ‘efficiencies’ was put together by independent experts and the cash could have been reinvested in frontline emergency services.

He added it was backed by 60 per cent of local communities, independent analysis and successive Home Secretaries.

“In the two years the fire authorities have been fighting this change with an expensive legal battle, joint governance would have delivered £8million back into frontline local police and fire services and enabled major service improvements.

“I urge the fire authorities to be open and transparent about the full costs incurred to local taxpayers and the basis for their actions.

“My commitment to the communities of West Mercia has always been to act in their best interests – that remains the case.

He added he fully accepted, understood and supported the Minister’s decision but reiterated his view the joint governance would benefit local communities and emergency services.

“The public is right to demand the best possible police and fire services, with the maximum amount of resource focused on the frontline.

“As such, I will revisit delivering this for our communities.”

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