Calls to keep county’s Fire Service in-house

June 22, 2017 6:57 PM

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS will call for cross-party support in opposing plans by the Police and Crime Commissioner to take over the running of Gloucestershire's Fire and Rescue Service.

The proposed cuts will axe 11 out of Leicestershire's 30 Fire Engines.At next Wednesday's County Council meeting, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) will strongly defend the current governance arrangements of the county's Fire & Rescue Service.

He will seek the support of members across all parties to reject any attempts to transfer the responsibility of the fire authority away from Gloucestershire County Council.

In commenting, Cllr. Hilton said:

"Gloucestershire County Council has run our fire and rescue service since 1974 and it is regarded as one of the best if not the best in the country. Similarly, our fire service is very good value for money at only £34 per head of population to operate.

"It would be absurd to change the governance arrangements of such a good service on a whim. I very much doubt that it would bring much in the way of benefits and could instead severely damage the excellent collaboration that already exists between the blue light services based at the county's Tri-Service Centre in Quedgeley.

"I am strongly opposed to the unnecessary tampering of any service that isn't broke and doesn't require fixing.

"I hope elected members across the chamber will support my motion and that with one voice we can send a strong message to the Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl to leave our county's fire and rescue service alone."

Back in January, the Home Office announced that Police and Crime Commissioners such as Gloucestershire's Martin Surl could make the case for taking responsibility for fire and rescue services. Mr Surl in March accepted £100K of government money in order to prepare a business case for possible takeover.

Former Liberal Democrat Shadow for Fire and Infrastructure, Cllr. Bernie Fisher (LD: St Paul's and Swindon) who will be seconding the motion said:

"As I've said before there are fundamentally two questions here - one, will transition make it more efficient and less costly to run, and two, will it improve collaboration for better delivery of the service?

"My view hasn't changed in that I very much doubt that such a move will satisfy either of these two questions.

"It is therefore a ridiculous move that should be strongly resisted by the entire Council.

"It is a service that now does so much more than putting out fires. To change such a valued and effective service would be foolish."

Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service is part of the County Council and it manages other services such as Emergency Management, Trading Standards, Registrars, Coroners and the Road Safety Partnership. It now also provides co-responder services to support the ambulance service, targeted work (particularly around dementia), telecare responses (helping to keep people in their own homes) and has led on community resilience (Including Emergency Management and Trading Standards).