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People in Norfolk could be put at ‘unacceptable’ risk by fire service switch, says council

PUBLISHED: 15:39 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:39 22 August 2018

Firefighters tackle a blaze at Leziate Park. Picture: Ian Burt

Firefighters tackle a blaze at Leziate Park. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

The safety of the public would be put at “unacceptable” risk if control of Norfolk’s fire and rescue service passed to the county’s police and crime commissioner, councillors are expected to state.

And Norfolk County Council will say a switch in control to Lorne Green could lead to a 20pc reduction in fire engine capacity in rural areas.

However, Mr Green has challenged the claim that public safety would be put at risk if he was running the service.

Last month, he began consultation over the fire service’s future.

It is currently run by the county council, but the Conservative government last year paved the way for police and crime commissioners to take control.

Conservative Mr Green said an independent draft business case had shown £10m could be saved in a decade if the service was under his control, with more efficient services and better joint working.

But it has set him at odds with Conservative-run County Hall. At a meeting of the communities committee next Wednesday, councillors will be asked to agree the council’s official response to his consultation.

And a draft of their proposed response states: “We have concerns that the proposal, if implemented, would create a real risk to public safety.”

It says the council has “significant concerns about the impact on public safety” - in terms of the financial impact and operational response.

Their draft response states: “It appears that the service, if the proposals were implemented, could be facing an almost 20pc reduction in fire engine capacity in rural areas, and would impact on our ability to respond to emergencies and would mean the service could not be resilient. This would represent an unacceptable level of public safety risk.”

Mr Green said: “Norfolk County Council is of course entitled to its views and I will carefully consider and reflect on their feedback.

“I would challenge in the strongest possible terms any claim that public safety would be put at risk; clearly that is not something I would ever countenance.

“These proposals are all about making our county even safer and improve our emergency services. I firmly believe a change of governance would allow us to do more to protect the vulnerable and make our communities safer.”

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