BREAKING NEWS: Police commissioner gets green light to take over Northamptonshire fire and rescue budget
Northamptonshire's police and crime commissioner will become the first in the UK to take over spending controls of his county fire service as well after a bid was approved by the Home Office.
Stephen Mold will now become the police, fire and crime commissioner (PFCC), a day after facing a backlash for suggesting a small amount of police staff had been allowed to "swing the lead".
Governmental approval of the business case submitted by Mr Mold’s office follows a public consultation in the county last year, which found 60 percent of respondents were in favour of him taking control of the fire service's budget - instead of the cash-strapped county council.
The eight-week consultation sought opinions from people from across the county, including fire service employees, police personnel, and staff from Northamptonshire County Council.
Fire service employees were significantly in favour of the change, with 92% agreeing with the transfer plans.
Although no firm date has yet been set, governance of the fire and rescue service will move to Mr Mold’s office this autumn.
He said: “Closer collaboration between the police and the fire service can bring real benefits to our communities so I am delighted that the Home Office has approved the business case, and agree that our vision for greater blue light integration is the right step forward for Northamptonshire.
"I am confident this change in governance is in the best interests of everyone in the county."
The new PFCC will replace the current county council fire authority, which is made up of 57 councillors.
Under the new model, the commissioner will hold the chief fire officer Darren Dovey to account for service performance.
The police and fire services will continue to be "operationally independent from one another", according to Mr Mold, and responsible for the day to day running of their respective services. The services will keep their separate uniforms, and carry on delivering separate skills.
All assets relating to the fire and rescue service, including its budget, fire appliances, vehicles, equipment and buildings will transfer to the commissioner’s office. The PFCC will also be the employer of fire and rescue staff.
He added: “There is scope for developing more aligned strategic plans for police and fire and increasing further collaboration. We would look at opportunities for joint attendance at incidents, providing joint crime and fire prevention advice, sharing more buildings and support functions, and having joint procurement. This would both increase effectiveness and efficiency.”
The budget for the fire service was previously part of Northamptonshire County Council’s overall budget. However, under the new governance arrangements, this budget will now transfer to the Commissioner and be ring-fenced and collected as part of each household’s council tax.
The fire and rescue service precept will be shown separately from the total council tax – just as the police precept currently is.
The police, fire and crime commissioner will then allocate a budget to the Chief Fire Officer to run the organisation, in the same way he does currently with the chief constable of Northamptonshire Police.
Chief fire officer Darren Dovey added: “I am pleased the wait is over and we now know who will be governing the fire and rescue service and can begin to develop our plans for the future.
“Ensuring that we are able to keep the people of Northamptonshire safe is our number one priority and I am very much looking forward to working with Stephen Mold to develop a strategic vision for the fire service that supports the needs of the communities we serve."
Minister for policing and fire, Nick Hurd, added: "Collaboration presents a real opportunity to improve the services provided to the people of Northamptonshire.
“There is strong local support for these proposals, which will encourage innovative thinking, joint working and the sharing of best practice."