More detail released on possible Essex police and fire brigade merger plans

PUBLISHED: 13:31 02 December 2016 | UPDATED: 13:31 02 December 2016

Essex Police Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh and Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley.

Essex Police Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh and Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley.

Archant

Proposals for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner to over see the fire brigade are pressing ahead – and could save up to £30.8million.

Commissioner Roger Hirst has been working with the Essex Fire Authority to look at how Essex Police and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) could merge in some form.

Legislation is currently going through Parliament to allow police commissioners to take on the running of fire brigades in their area.

Now an initial business case has been submitted to the fire authority to discuss at its meeting on Wednesday.

It proposes that the police and crime commissioner would replace the fire authority and take overall charge, but the two services would remain separate with individual chief officers

Savings could come not only from the single governance arrangements, but by sharing back office systems such as IT and HR.

The business case also assumes the ongoing work to potentially move the Essex Police headquarters, and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, from Chelmsford to the Kelvedon Park fire HQ.

At an operational level the report predicts closer working between the brigade and force – such as with fire officers potentially carrying out some road patrol functions, including helping to clear congestion after a crash – but police officers and firefighters would remain separate.

Mr Hirst said: “I have been very open about my desire for closer working between Essex Police and ECFRS and I believe there are great benefits from having joint governance.

“There are opportunities for the services to work together to help the vulnerable and keep people safe – for instance by improving the way we respond to the public online and on the phone, providing joint crime and fire prevention advice, opportunities for joint attendance at incidents, sharing buildings and support functions, benefits in a joint contact centre and joint IT provision, and finding ways to realise greater efficiency savings and release funds for reinvestment.

“Both Essex Police and ECFRS do a great job at protecting residents of Essex, making them safer and coming to their aid when they are in trouble. But there are opportunities to work smarter and to do more things together which I feel is in the interests of the public of Essex for us to explore.”

Anthony Hedley, chairman of Essex Fire Authority, added: “Essex Fire Authority has supported the development of a draft local business case, prepared by the Police and Crime Commissioner, to explore joint governance of police and fire services in Essex.”

If the plan is agreed by both police and fire, then more detailed work will be carried out before a public consultation takes place. However, the consultation would not begin until the law is passed by Parliament allowing the proposed changes.

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