Opposition to plans to give control of East Sussex fire service to PCC
Plans to put Police and Crime Commissioners in charge of fire and rescue services has attracted opposition in East Sussex.
Last month Home Secretary Theresa May set out the Government’s intention to allow PCCs to take over fire services where a local case is made with the aim of improving accountability.
Sussex PCC Katy Bourne has written to the East Sussex Fire Authority (ESFA) asking for its assistance in exploring whether or not there is a business case for moving the county’s two fire and rescue services to under her control.
Labour’s Phil Scott, East Sussex county councillor for the Hollington and Wishing Tree division in Hastings and a member of the ESFA, has been an outspoken opponent of proposals since they were mooted by the Government in a consultation last year.
Cllr Scott said: “Personally I’m opposed to any move that would see the PCC take on the police and fire role jointly. Its current governance arrangements work very well.
“Although funding from Government has greatly reduced over the years I believe we have managed to ensure the best possible front line fire fighter cover is in place, there have been no fire stations closed at all in East Sussex and the general public have confidence in our decision making and in how the fire service is managed with satisfaction levels remaining high despite the obvious challenging financial times.
“If the Police and Crime Commissioner wants to sit at the fire authority table to discuss how we could continue to work together with police and indeed other emergency services then I would positively welcome that in the future.”
A spokesman for the East Sussex Fire Authority said: “The fire authority is willing to co-operate with the PCC in respects to any approach to determine at an early stage whether the proposals would improve delivery of services to the public and create efficiencies.
“However the fire authority stands by its response to the Government’s consultation ‘Enabling closer working between the emergency services’. It believes whilst close collaboration between the emergency services is essential, it can be achieved without elaborate structural change.
“It is also the fire authority’s considered view that it is more accountable to the community it serves because its members are elected councillors from Brighton and Hove and East Sussex.
“East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has always worked hard to ensure the communities we serve benefit from collaboration and partnerships with other organisations.
“We have most recently seen this come to fruition with the opening of Saxon House in Newhaven and future opportunities include moving into shared headquarters with Sussex Police in Lewes.”
A spokesman from the Office of the Sussex PCC said: “Under the forthcoming Police and Crime Bill there will be an increased duty to collaborate between emergency services and a key part is for PCCs to consider whether to take on responsibility for fire and rescue where a local case is made. Twice this week the Home Secretary has publicly encouraged fire and rescue services and authorities, communities and Police and Crime Commissioners to examine the case this and this is why we have written to interested parties seeking their co-operation in exploring all the options.
“With this in mind the office of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner will commission a study that will involve all relevant stakeholders and residents across Sussex.
“On the basis of the findings of this the commissioner will decide whether or not to make an application to the Home Office.”
West Sussex county councillors across the political spectrum voiced opposition to plans last week.
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