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Hands off Norfolk’s fire service, county councillors tell police and crime commissioner

PUBLISHED: 11:45 29 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:51 29 August 2018

Norfolk Police and Crime Commisssioner Lorne Green.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police and Crime Commisssioner Lorne Green. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Claims that £10m would be saved if Norfolk’s fire service passed into the control of the county’s police and crime commissioner are “speculative and misleading”, councillors have said.

In agreeing their official response to consultation over the future of the fire service, county councillors honed in on the figures in the business case commissioned by Norfolk’s Conservative PCC Lorne Green.

Mr Green began consultation over the fire service’s future in July - setting him at odds with Conservative-run County Hall.

The fire service 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 Norfolk County Council’s communities committee today unanimously agreed to submit their response to the consultation, urging that the service remains in County Hall’s hands.

The £10m saving is described in the council’s formal consultation response as “speculative and misleading”.

They say many of the savings are already being made by the council, so the change in governance will not save that much money, while they said the proposals had been not been subject to risk assessments.

Labour’s Chrissie Rumsby said: “The people of Norfolk are being misled by this. That’s quite a serious thing.”

Independent councillor Sandra Squire said: “If this was submitted to me as a business proposal, it would have gone in the bin.”

Conservative David Bills said the PCC’s business case was filled with “vagaries”, while fellow Tory Brian Long said: “What this doesn’t do for me is convince me there’s significant additional savings in governance to justify the expenditure of the change.”

The council says the business case’s total efficiencies would only come to £8.5m, not £10m and that £4.7m of those savings would be delivered without any change in control. The council questions if the remaining £3.9m could really be delivered without threatening public safety.

The council’s response, which they will be submitting directly to the Home Office also says the safety of the public would be put at “unacceptable” risk if control was transferred.

Mr Green said he was “saddened” at that claim and that he firmly believed his proposals would make the service safer.

He said he would not be commenting on the council’s claims over the figures until he received their submission, but said the draft business case had drawn on figures provided by the council and the fire service.

He said: “I have said from the start that I will be guided by the evidence and I will weigh it all up before deciding how to proceed.”

The consultation, here, ends next Wednesday.

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