West Sussex County Council’s Leader has set out her opposition to a possible proposal from the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to take responsibility of the county’s Fire and Rescue Service.
Louise Goldsmith told a meeting of the Full Council today (Friday 27 May) that she had received a letter this week from the Commissioner, Katy Bourne, setting out her intention to explore the proposal to take on control of the fire service.
The Home Secretary Theresa May gave a speech this week on the reform of Fire and Rescue Services, including plans to invite PCCs to prepare bids to take on responsibility for Fire and Rescue Services in their area. The enabling legislation for these proposals is currently going through Parliament in the amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill.
In West Sussex the Fire and Rescue Service is fully integrated with the County Council.
Louise said: “I am firmly of the view that we have an excellent model – one that I am extremely proud of and one that I would not want to see put at risk.”
Louise told the meeting the Home Secretary’s proposals to allow Police and Crime Commissioners to run fire services are based on a ‘perceived’ need for reform based on:
• The benefits of greater collaboration with other emergency services
• Opportunities for joint working and joint commissioning
• The need to change old ways of working
• A need for greater democratic accountability and transparency
• The need for further savings from more efficient practices
Louise added: “I believe we deliver all of those things already and that we have achieved considerably more benefits in terms of integration with our other preventative, community safety and safeguarding services."
Louise went on to invite the Home Secretary to West Sussex to see for herself the ‘alternative’ to government’s preferred model which is already working well.
Louise said: “I would be delighted to welcome the Home Secretary to West Sussex to show her how all of her requirements are already being met by our excellent Fire and Rescue Service through integration with the County Council.”
Today’s County Council meeting saw cross-party opposition to the Government’s proposal to allow PCCs to take on responsibility for fire services.
A full debate on the Government’s proposal will be held at the July full Council meeting.