Suffolk PCC chooses not to pursue FRS plans

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore.

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has announced that he will not be pursuing plans to take control of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Earlier this year the Police and Crime Commissioner commissioned an independent review to assist his decision-making. This review concluded that there is insufficient evidence to suggest a governance change at this point in time would be clearly in the interests of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; or public safety.

Tim Passmore said, “From the out-set I said I would only consider taking over the governance of Suffolk’s fire service if it provided clear benefit to the county’s tax-payers. Following an extensive options appraisal process, it is clear that the benefit from a change of governance is unlikely to be significant, so I feel it is sensible not to take this any further for the foreseeable future.

“I am very satisfied that PA Consulting, who carried out the review, has considered all the risks and benefits of this potential change of governance. Their thorough report highlights some benefits but not enough to make a change in governance worthwhile.”

The Police and Crime Act 2017 provides for three new governance options for fire. The representation model and single employer options were not considered by the consultants to deliver sufficient benefits or be viable. As such, the detailed options assessment focuses on the two viable options for Suffolk: no change versus the governance model, in which a new FRS entity would be created and governed by the PCC.

Tim Passmore added, “Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) are both relatively low cost services and whilst I understand the medium-term financial position of SFRS is protected; the longer-term position is less clear. It would be foolhardy for me to make such a major change to the governance of the fire service whilst this uncertainty exists. At this point, I think my main focus needs to be on the challenges that the Constabulary faces and making sure we deliver the best possible policing for Suffolk’s taxpayers.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner will continue to work closely with Suffolk County Council and SFRS to identify further collaboration opportunities. The two blue light services already share eight joint facilities in Suffolk, with stations operating in Saxmundham, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Ixworth, Elmswell, Debenham, Framlingham and Clare. Work has started on the joint station in Newmarket and there are plans for further joint stations in Beccles, Leiston and Stowmarket along with some further sharing opportunities of functions in Ipswich.

“Despite my decision not to change the governance arrangements at this stage this does not mean we will not continue to look at every opportunity for deeper joint working and collaboration between our two organisations to improve service delivery and obtain better value for money for taxpayers in Suffolk. The next step for my team is to meet with the Chief Constable, the cabinet member for public protection, Cllr Matthew Hicks and his Chief Fire Officer and agree how we will take the recommendations of this report forward together.”

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for environment and public protection, said, “In Suffolk we have really been pushing ahead with blue light collaboration between our fire and rescue service and the police, working together and with the sharing of fire and police stations. In fact we’re held up nationally for it.

“Suffolk County Council and the fire and rescue service have been heavily involved in this process and feel strongly that regardless of governance arrangements, we will continue to work closely and share resources so that we can continue to keep people in Suffolk safe.”