Norfolk police commissioner orders full review of fire service governance switch

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A full study of potential reforms to how Norfolk’s police and fire services are governed is set to be commissioned, despite the opposition of council chiefs.

The county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Lorne Green, has ordered the assessment following the publication an initial report.

But he insisted that he was not interested in merging the two services.

He said: “I respect the clear identities, professionalisms and cultures of the police and the fire and rescue services.

“We simply are exploring what benefits there could be for the people of Norfolk in a new way to govern the services, to make them safer and more secure.”

Under new laws passed last year, PCCs have the power can take over the governance of their area’s fire service if a local case – meeting criteria of effectiveness, economy and efficiency and public safety – is made for a switch.

An interim report, published last month, said moving governance of the fire service to the PCC’s office would be the best option, if a local consensus could be reached for it.

At present, Norfolk County Council is responsible for the fire service and it is continuing to resist the call for change.

Its leader, Cliff Jordan, said both the authority and fire service would co-operate with the study.

But he added: “We do not support the PCC’s decision to proceed to a full business case, and continue to believe that there is no compelling case to change Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) governance.

“This process is 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.”

But the county’s Conservative MPs have backed the idea and Mr Green said it was his job to explore measures that could help to keep the public safer in a more cost-effective way.

He said: “I bring no personal bias or agenda to this exploration; I will be guided by the evidence.

“Upon development of a business case, were it to recommend strongly a new governance model, before any decision was taken it would be put to Norfolk residents in an extensive countywide consultation so that the evidence can be weighed in public and in detail; which is the way it should be.

“Development of a business case in due course can inform an evidence-based discussion of the future of public safety in our county in which everyone can participate.”