RFU “open to” idea of Norfolk Fire and Rescue transfer to PCC

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

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

The debate over the future of Norfolk Fire and Rescue has taken another turn as the Retained Firefighters Union has said they are 'open' to the possibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) taking over responsibility.

An independent report commissioned by PCC Lorne 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 today the RFU has said they 'do not dismiss the idea', soon after all eight Conservative Norfolk MPs had written a joint letter to Mr Green urging him to press ahead with a feasibility study.

Tristan Ashby, chief executive officer at the RFU said: 'We question whether the current model of strategic management and accountability undertaken by local councils via their fire authorities, is serving the public well by providing an efficient, effective emergency service

'The fact remains that currently in Norfolk on average, frontline appliances are unavailable to respond to emergencies 20-25pc of the time, this level of service is unacceptable and has been a growing trend for many years under the strategic management of the Fire Authority.

'The RFU fully supports change but any change must be based on factual evidence and debated in an open and transparent manner to allow the opportunity for the public and stakeholders to take ownership of the public service of Norfolk.'

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The letter from Tory MPs 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'.

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.'

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