PCC accused of 'power grab' over Norfolk Fire Service merger
PUBLISHED: 16:07 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:13 31 January 2018
The leader of Norfolk County Council has accused the Police and Crime Commissioner of a "power grab" over who is in charge of the fire service.
And the row over the plan to take away the governance of the service from the council and hand it to PCC Lorne Green has now taken a new twist after Norfolk’s Tory MPs wrote an open letter backing the move.
But Conservative council leader Cliff Jordan hit back saying the letter made his “mouth drop” adding the only motivation for the move in his opinion could be a power grab.
The letter, addressed to Mr Green, was signed by Tory MPs Richard Bacon, Sir Henry Bellingham, George Freeman, Chloe Smith, Brandon Lewis, Keith Simpson and Elizabeth Truss. In it they express their “unanimous support for the proposal to explore the benefits of closer governance”.
An independent report commissioned by Mr Green concluded the “preferred option” would be to transfer the fire service to the control of the PCC away from the county council.
But the report also said there needed to be the “political will” to make the change. Conservative council leader Cliff Jordan dismissed the report when it was published saying there is “no compelling case for any change”. His views were backed by his fellow councillors cross party when the communities committee voted against the proposals.
But the letter from the MPs – including new Tory Party chairman Mr Lewis – carries huge political weight and will ramp up the pressure on the county council to think again.
In a plea to councillors the letter adds: “All of us in public service owe it to the people we serve, local taxpayers and public service users, to ensure that we put frontline services ahead of back office admin.”
But Mr Jordan said: “They make my mouth drop open. Everything they say about what we could achieve we have already done. We have made those savings.
“There are no advantages for Lorne to take over the fire service. We have been working extremely hard to get the fire service in to a good place.
“The only thing I can think of is – and Lorne has said this is not the case – but it has to be a power grab. It can’t be for efficiency.”
Mr Green was not available.