Fire Authority frustrated by lack of decision from Police and Crime Commissioner
Frustrations regarding the Police and Crime Commissioner’s refusal to give the final go ahead to a previously agreed collaboration were voiced at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority meeting yesterday (June 20).
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Jason Ablewhite had previously agreed that the Fire Authority could have a piece of land on the police training site at Monks Wood for a new, urgently needed, modern operational training facility for firefighters. The agreement was set out in the PCC’s business case to take over governance of the fire and rescue service, however, the PCC is now refusing to give a final decision, as the outcome of the Fire Authority’s judicial review is not yet known – something that could take weeks if not months.
The Fire Authority has been seeking a new training facility for a number of years and its initial plans to build a new training centre, fire station and headquarters in Huntingdon were challenged by the PCC in 2016, claiming collaboration with the police would be more cost effective, and he offered Monks Wood for a shared training site.
Chairman of the Fire Authority Kevin Reynolds, explained: “We stopped our initial plans as the PCC was adamant we should be collaborating and we willingly entered into discussions with him for alternatives. His offer of Monks Wood was a viable option for us and also benefited the public purse so we pursued this to the point of having initial planning permission agreed. We are now ready to press the button but we first need a final agreement from Mr Ablewhite but he is refusing to give this at this time. We invited him to our Fire Authority meeting to discuss things but he declined. It is all becoming hugely frustrating. We desperately need a new operational training facility that is fit for the modern day fire and rescue service to ensure our firefighters are trained and competent in the wide ranging incidents they attend, but we are now being held back.”
He continued: “To us, it should make no difference who has governance of the fire service for this collaboration to proceed. Police and fire services by law now have a duty to collaborate and there are no barriers that we know of to prevent us from moving forwards with the plans. We just want to understand why this collaboration cannot go ahead now. If Mr Ablewhite is wanting to defer a final decision until he knows the outcome of the judicial review, then that would suggest he is only prepared to share estates if he is in charge of both services but that is not what public service collaboration is about. The frustrating fact is, that had we stuck to our original plan to move to a different site, we would have been in by now and operating the new training centre.”
The Fire Authority concluded the discussion by agreeing to invite the Police and Crime Commissioner to an extraordinary meeting of the Fire Authority, at a date convenient to him, to discuss the matter further.
The Fire Authority sought a judicial review into the Home Office’s decision to allow the PCC to take over governance of the fire service. The Fire Authority has always believed that the business case was flawed and no evidence had been presented that suggested the move would be beneficial. The judicial review was held on June 5-6, 2019.