North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, has launched a consultation proposing changes to the way the county’s fire and rescue service is overseen.
Government and local stakeholders all agree that the way the police and fire and rescue services are currently governed is not driving collaboration fast enough, and that change is necessary.
The move comes after a new legal duty for emergency services to collaborate was passed by Parliament, which enables Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to apply to oversee the fire and rescue service as well as the police, taking on the role of their local fire and rescue authority. Julia Mulligan believes that by bringing the oversight of North Yorkshire Police and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service together, collaboration between the two services will increase. This will improve the efficiency of both organisations, join up and enhance community safety, better support vulnerable people, improve transparency, and save money that can be reinvested into frontline services.
In response to the new legislation, Julia has developed a vision of what could be achieved if both services were governed under the same body. She said, “I believe that there are some real opportunities to improve the service to the public, especially the most vulnerable, and at the same time save taxpayers’ money and bolster and protect our frontline services. Let’s be clear, this is not a merger. The two services will remain separate – police officers and fire officers will still have their own distinct roles, and budgets will always be kept separate. But by bringing both organisations under the same governance, we can improve things for everyone.
“Here in North Yorkshire, we have some good examples of working together where the police and fire services join up to prevent harm, helping to protect vulnerable people, and improve community safety. But just a few examples are not enough. There is much more that we could, and should, be doing.
“One way to do this would be by re-investing money into our frontline services that we will save by sharing governance and working better together. Saving money elsewhere is how I have been able to increase frontline numbers over the last few years, and this will be no different. For a start, I would explore the opportunities of a truly joint plan for sharing police and fire stations at more than 20 sites across the county where they are already close together, including our headquarters.”
North Yorkshire Police recently relocated its headquarters to Northallerton’s Alverton Court, a move that will save approximately £10m compared to other proposals.
Julia added, “Bringing our fire and police headquarters together into one place could further save up to £250,000 of taxpayers’ money per year. It’s firefighters and police officers that save lives, not buildings. But sharing buildings isn’t just about saving money. By bringing the two chief officer teams together, it would make it easier to develop a shared vision for a joint community safety plan for North Yorkshire, and oversight would be easier too, speeding up the scale and pace of change.
“Change is something we must embrace. All our public services are facing financial pressures, so it is vital we pull together, pool our sovereignty and put the public first, who quite rightly expect us to seize every opportunity to protect frontline services.”
Julia is encouraging people across North Yorkshire to visit www.telljulia.com to contribute to the 10-week public consultation.