VIDEO: Northamptonshire Police and firefighters sharing vehicles as part of pilot scheme

Northamptonshire Police and the county fire service are sharing vehicles as part of moves towards closer working in rural areas.

A 12-month trial of the new rural intervention vehicle branded with both police and fire logos began in the north of the county in the autumn.

The rural intervention vehicle which is being used by Northamptonshire Police and Northants Fire and Rescue in Oundle and the surrounding villages

The rural intervention vehicle which is being used by Northamptonshire Police and Northants Fire and Rescue in Oundle and the surrounding villages

Staffed by a police officer and a fire officer, the vehicle helps each service increase their visibility in rural areas – specifically in and around Oundle.

The pilot scheme will run until October, with an interim study into its impact taking place next month.

Chief Superintendent Paul Fell said the vehicle provided a better and quicker response, allowing expertise from both services to get to the scene quickly.

It also allowed the two services to work in partnership to issue both crime and fire prevention advice.

He added: “The public are aware that all public services face significant financial challenges over the next few years, but this is genuinely about trying to provide a better service in a more cost-effective way to local communities.”

The vehicle is manned by PC John Vjestica and fire service watch manager Justin Abbott.

Kettering fire station manager Jason Urbani said: “This is an exciting opportunity to see how police and fire can work more smartly together.

“We are two separate brands running separately but learning from each other.”

And the Oundle area’s district commander Chief Inspector Dennis Murray said putting resources into a single vehicle had already brought benefits.

He added: “The introduction of the rural intervention team has been a very practical example of how police and fire can work together on the ground to the benefit of local people.

“The jointly crewed vehicle has improved the visibility and accessibility of police and fire services in rural areas, as well as enhancing support to local people in areas such as crime and fire prevention and dealing with ongoing local problems.”

Fire service area manager Shaun Hallam said: “This has been a very welcome initiative that’s helping to improve the service we provide to our rural communities.

“Many local issues can involve both fire and police services, so having a team working together on a day-to-day basis means we can provide a quicker and more comprehensive response, from providing support and advice at an incident or working with the farming community to improve fire safety and security, to supporting local officers in finding solutions to an ongoing problem with anti-social behaviour.”

County police commissioner Adam Simmonds has been driving closer working between the blue light services since his election.

However, Mr Simmonds has previously come under fire in some quarters for what has been perceived to be work on a “merger” of the two services without a political mandate for such work. But the rural intervention vehicle has been given a cautious welcome by many.

Gez Jackson, the chairman of Northamptonshire Police Federation – the body which represents rank-and-file police officers – said the initiative could be positive.

He added: “I think it can only be a good thing they are trying to do new things with less and less public money.”

Corby MP Andy Sawford said he would welcome the move if it meant increased emergency cover.

However, he added: “If they are a replacement for proper fire and police cover that is a cause for concern.”