Police commissioner on target to wipe out deficit at North Yorkshire’s fire service

North Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan.

A controversial move by North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner to take over the governance of the county’s fire service and has been more successful in turning around financial issues than had been anticipated.

A report by North Yorkshire commissioner Julia Mulligan detailing the progress made in the year since she took over from the councillor-run North Yorkshire Fire Authority, states the fire service has moved from a budget deficit of £1.2m a year to a forecase break even budget by 2021 without any cuts to frontline services.

The report to the North Yorkshire and York Police, Fire and Crime Panel states as more collaboration is developed between the police and fire services over the next decade savings are now forecast to reach £8m across the fire service and police force, £1.4 million more than was originally estimated.

Before Home Secretary Sajid Javed approved plans for Mrs Mulligan to run both organisations, North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council and six of seven of the county’s district councils, had opposed the move, saying they wanted to see the commissioner represented on a council-run fire authority.

However, the panel, which includes councillors who opposed Mrs Mulligan overseeing the fire services, will hear next week joint oversight of the police and fire service had seen progress in the pace and scale of collaboration and change.

A report to the meeting states the two organisations now share a joint mission and vision with aligned priorities through their respective strategic plans, have a joint headquarters and pool services. Further savings will come with the launch of a Public Safety Service, with officers delivering preventative work for both services and from closer working between control rooms and joint training sessions, and by sharing equipment, such as drones.

Referring to the financial transformation, the report states: “Much of this progress stems from more dynamic, transparent and accountable governance, allowing work to move at pace and decisions to be made more quickly.

“Access to information and a greater understanding of detailed business cases, through support from the Office of the Police,
Fire and Crime Commissioner and having more time to spend with the service, has meant different considerations and potential gaps have been explored, leading to greater focus on clear priorities.

The report added that decisions affecting the fire service were now more transparent and more members of the public have been involved in setting the direction of the service and its council tax demand through consultation than ever before, with over 3,700 people involved in the first year.

The report concludes: “There is still much more work to be done but the commissioner now has a thorough understanding of the challenges and robust plans in place to address them.

“Over the next 12 months we will identify tangible outcomes linked to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our new ways of working, ensuring better outcomes for the public.”