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Who should run Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service?

April 17, 2018 10:58 AM

Fire engine

Sarah Butikofer proposed an amendment to a Labour motion on the Police and Crime Commissioner taking over the governance of Norfolk and Fire Service (NFRS) at the full council meeting on 16 April 2018. Council could only agree with part of that motion and Sarah's amendment which was for the council to prepare its own business case so that it could present clear information to residents on the efficient and effective way the NFRS currently operates received support from Labour and Tories and was agreed by almost all of Councillors.

Sarah's speech on the amnedment is in full here -

Thank you, Mr Chairman,

As the only member of this Council to sit on both the Police and Crime Panel, and the Communities Committee, I have read many papers and listened to many opinions on this subject.

I am broadly very supportive of this motion. As we all know the Communities Committee voted earlier this year that - Norfolk County Council should retain governance of the Fire and Rescue Service, while continuing to support and promote appropriate collaboration between emergency services and that Option 1 was the Council's preferred way forward. The Leader has also made clear his opinions on this matter.

So, it's particularly interesting to me that the PCC feels the need to say at every opportunity that this discussion and debate should not be about politics.

I am pleased that on such an important issue we can say that this Chamber stands broadly united.

This discussion needs to be based on accurate and definitive evidence. The safety of the people of Norfolk and the future of our Fire Service are just too important for this decision to be based on anything else.

That word definitive is very important here. Those of us that have read the Outline Report will know that there was just one point of difference in the appraisal scores between option 3 and option 1.

Bearing in mind that there was just one point in the appraisal between these two models the conclusion of the report then said - The score for option 3 presented below, assumes it is possible to build a general consensus among the key stakeholders including Norfolk County Council, to support the change with energy and political will.

If a local consensus cannot be achieved the deliverability score of Option 3 will be severely affected. MOST Interestingly it went on to say It would remain possible for the PCC to make a successful case to the Home Office without local consensus - as is being attempted elsewhere in the country. However, in our view this approach would carry a higher level of risk, with implications for public safety and value for money. In this case, option 1 to continue with voluntary collaboration under refreshed and strengthened arrangements would need to be considered as a viable alternative.

The minutes of the Police and Crime Panel meeting held on the 28th of November note that the PCC insisted that the Outline Business Case would need to evidence that the County would be safer through another form of governance in order for him to commission a Full Business Case.

I refer him back to my earlier quote from the Outline Business Case.

However, we are now where we are as they say, and I like many other members will read and study the Full Business Case when it is made available to us.

We know from the extract I read you before from Grant Thornton's report, that several Business Cases have been put to the Home Office without local consensus. That this is happening was also evidenced last week when the Chief Executive of the OPCC explained a process that sounded remarkably like a Fait Accompli to the Police and Crime Panel. No application by a PCC to the Home Office has been turned down as yet.

The PCC has stated that we have not provided him with the evidence to support our concerns - we need to make sure we can.

Therefore to ensure we are best prepared to evaluate the Full Business Case when it comes forward, I would like to propose the following amendment to the Motion before us.

To remove the last three lines of the motion and instead replace them with:-

Council resolves to prepare its own business case for the retention of NFRS under NCC control. This will ensure that NCC is in a stronger position to answer any issues that arise from the work commissioned by the PCC and will be able to present clear information to residents on the efficient and effective way Norfolk NFRS operates at present.

Colleagues I would urge you to support the amended motion before you this morning.

Thank you

photo of Sarah Butikofer

Councillor Sarah Butikofer