North Yorkshire Police tsar’s fire authority plan ‘not convincing’, council leader says

North Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
North Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The leader of a Yorkshire council says the arguments made by the area’s Police and Crime Commissioner in her case to also govern its fire authority have “not been convincing”.

Julia Mulligan has put forward a Local Business Case for increasing the level of collaboration between the police and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Coun Derek Bastiman.

Coun Derek Bastiman.

Legislation passed by Parliament now means that commissioners can make an application to oversee both.

Mrs Mulligan’s preferred option, one of three ideas that she has laid out in an consultation with the public until September 22, would mean that each authority retains operational independence and separate chiefs, roles and identities.

But today Coun Derek Bastiman, leader of Scarborough council and chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s Corporate and Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee, branded the plan “overly simplistic”. He added that it could undermine collaborative work that has been done in the past.

Coun Bastiman said: “We are supportive of collaborative working between the Police and the Fire and Rescue Service, where it can be demonstrated that it improves outcomes and helps to save money that can then be invested in front line services.

“The concern is that the arguments put forward to date in favour of changes to the governance of the Fire and Rescue service have not been convincing.

“If the pace and scope of collaboration between the two services needs to be accelerated and expanded, then surely it makes sense, first and foremost, to fully understand what is holding things up and then work out how to address that.

“Why leap straight to changes in governance that may well prove to be irreversible?”

Coun Bastiman said that the county council has been working for many years with the emergency services, district councils, the NHS and others.

He added: “It is overly simplistic to focus in on models of one dimensional collaboration. The real challenge and opportunity comes from multilateral collaboration and joint working across a broad range of agencies and organisations in the county. The concern is that a strong, exclusive and unilateral arrangement between the Police and the Fire and Rescue Service will undermine some of the joint work that has been done to date and limit what can be gained from countywide collaboration and partnership working in the future.”

However, during a meeting of City of York Council’s Customer and Corporate Services Scrutiny Management Committee today, Mrs Mulligan said: “I really think that we need to do everything we can as fast as we can to protect those frontline services.”

She also argued that “substantial savings” could be made through integrating services and has previously claimed that up to £6.6m could be saved.

The other ideas outlined by Mrs Mulligan are her simply becoming a voting member of the fire authority, with the most extreme option being her replacing the authority altogether.

The committee unanimously agreed to recommend that the council’s Cabinet supports the first of those options, known as the ‘representation model’. A review of the business case will be carried out before an application is made to the Home Secretary.

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