Norfolk police and crime commissioner to push ahead with study into fire service switch - despite opposition

Firefighters tackle a house fire. But uncertainty surrounds who will run the fire service in the fut

Firefighters tackle a house fire. But uncertainty surrounds who will run the fire service in the future. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Norfolk's police and crime commissioner is going ahead with a business case exploring whether the county's fire service should come under his control - despite Norfolk County Council opposition.

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

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

Lorne Green today announced he wanted a 'thorough and detailed assessment' into whether future options for the fire service would 'produce real and tangible benefits for emergency services'.

That pits the Conservative commissioner against the Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council.

County Hall's communities committee rejected an independent report's conclusion that the 'preferred option' was for the police and crime commissioner to run the service.

Leader Cliff Jordan had said there was 'no compelling case for any change' and accused his Tory colleague of an attempted 'power grab' - denied by Mr Green.

But the county's MPs wrote a letter backing further exploration and Mr Green has said he will get Grant Thornton and his office to work on a business case.

He said: 'As a servant of the public I believe it is incumbent on me to explore fully any change that could offer the possibility of keeping the people of Norfolk even safer, and to provide them with the most cost-effective emergency services for their hard-earned tax pounds. I bring no personal bias or agenda to this exploration; I will be guided by the evidence.

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'Last month I received an initial report from independent experts which concluded that there was enough evidence to warrant a more detailed and thorough look into future governance options.

'Having listened to numerous stakeholders and interested parties, and carefully weighed up the evidence before me, I have decided that we should proceed to a full exploration of whether safer, more efficient and effective emergency services can be provided for Norfolk residents, businesses and visitors.'

If the business case does recommend a change, then there would be consultation with Norfolk people, ahead of any approach to the Home Office for a switch in control.

Mr Green said: 'I do want to make it clear, however, that I am not interested in pursuing a potential merger of the two services.

'We are simply 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.'

But Norfolk County Council leader Mr Jordan repeated his opposition to the move and said it would 'distract fire officers' from keeping Norfolk safe.

He said: 'We do not support the commissioner'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 governance.

'This process will not only incur significant costs for taxpayers but also take up considerable time. We also believe that such a process would distract fire officers from their primary role of keeping Norfolk safe and have a negative impact on the service's upcoming inspection.'

But he added: 'Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service will fully cooperate with providing evidence for the full business case.'

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