Plans being drawn up to move fire control to join police in Wymondham

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett in the control room at Wymondham HQ. Photo: Bill Smith

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett in the control room at Wymondham HQ. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant

Norfolk's fire service call handlers are set to join their police counterparts in Wymondham under plans for a joint control room.

Police and crime commissioner Stephen Bett said plans were afoot to move the fire service control hub from its current site in Hethersett to the police headquarters down the road.

It emerged as home secretary Theresa May announced she would change the law to allow elected police and crime commissioners to take over fire services, although the decision would be made locally.

Mr Bett said it would be a sensible move, given police and fire services were already moving much more closely together, but he was not going to force the issue.

'At the moment the county council has the ace in their hand. They will decide whether they want to do it,' he said.

He said it was not clear when the move would happen, but added: 'I don't believe there is much initial saving that will be realised but I do believe the real benefit at this stage lies in more efficient and effective working.'

Paul Smyth, chairman of the communities committee at Norfolk County Council, said the home office announcement would provide a new choice, not force change.

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'The county council remains the fire authority in Norfolk and has no plan to pass that role to the PCC. We welcome closer co-operation with the police where it makes operational and financial sense, and work is already under way to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our emergency services through increased collaboration, including collocating some headquarters staff,' he said.

In Suffolk, police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he was delighted with the governnment announcement.

'I have made no secret of my desire over the past three years to provide even better value for money for the council taxpayer by joining with partners to cut duplication. This announcement is exactly what I've been waiting for.

'We already have an excellent track record of working with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service with several joint police and fire stations with more in the pipeline and I really look forward to building on this.'

Lorne Green, the Conservative police and crime commissioner candidate for Norfolk, said that the proposals on working with other emergency services were in tune with what he was trying to promote, but it was the job of the police and crime commissioner to respect the view of the community.

He said he would be travelling around the county to seek the views of communities and the police and fire service themselves.

But Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat peer and former senior MET police officer, said PCCs were a failed experiment.

'It is time to put them to bed not expand their remit,' he said.

'The Liberal Democrats have always opposed the concept of PCCs and these new proposals only makes it even more objectionable.'

Should police and crime commissioners be given control of fire services too? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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