Essex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Roger Hirst's proposal to take on responsibility for Essex Fire and Rescue service has been approved by the Home Secretary, it was announced today (Tuesday, 25 July) marking an important step in the Government's drive to see police and fire collaborate further and faster to benefit their local communities.
Mr Hirst's proposal was submitted following a public consultation and endorsement from all three top tier local authorities in the area. He is now set to become the first Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner in October 2017.
Through the Policing and Crime Act 2017, the Government has introduced a range of measures to drive greater collaboration between emergency services, enabling services to share best practice and become more efficient and effective. This includes enabling PCCs to take on governance of fire and rescue services where a local case is made.
Since coming into post in 2012, PCCs have brought clear local transparency and accountability to police forces and their performance, as well as ensuring communities have a stronger voice in local policing. PCCs will be able to bring this same level of accountability to fire and rescue services which will help the continuous improvement of the service.
It will also help to encourage greater collaboration between police and fire services in Essex, including the sharing of back office functions and premises. This will enable the two services to work more effectively together to protect the public and secure best value for money. The important distinction between operational policing and fire-fighting will still be maintained.
Speaking at Essex Fire and Rescue headquarters today, the Minister for Policing and Fire Nick Hurd said:
"It's great to see Essex taking the lead in this field and bringing forward a proposal which has support from local authorities across the county and from many of the public.
"I want to see our emergency services continue to drive closer collaboration to encourage joint working, the sharing of best practice and more innovative thinking.
"Having a directly accountable leader overseeing policing and fire will help both services enhance their effectiveness, maximise available resources, boost local resilience and improve the services delivered to the public. I'm really looking forward to seeing the benefits this will bring to the local area."
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Roger Hirst, said:
"The people of Essex deserve to have the best possible emergency services. By bringing together the governance of the Essex Police and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service we can support closer working and make investment decisions that will bring even bigger benefits in the future.
"By ensuring a more joined-up response to incidents, providing crime and fire prevention advice, creating community safety hubs, and sharing buildings we can improve how we work and generate significant savings which can then be reinvested back into front line services.
"Essex has always been an innovative and forward thinking county as shown by the support we have received for this proposal. Together we can do more to improve the service we give to the public and help keep people safe."
A number of other PCCs are currently developing business cases or exploring options for the future governance of fire and rescue services.
In 2016/17, the Home Office awarded £1 million from the Police Transformation Fund to nine PCCs for their work in developing business cases to take on the additional responsibility for the governance of fire and rescue in their area.