The county council and crime commissioner are at loggerheads over who runs North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan wants to use new Government powers to take over the running of the service, which is currently overseen by North Yorkshire Fire Authority, which is made up of North Yorkshire and York councillors.
However, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive has this week called for a stepped approach to changes to the way in which the fire service is overseen and held to account.
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The executive was responding to a consultation by the crime commissioner on her business case for accelerating the pace of collaboration between the police and the fire service.
Her preferred option is for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to take on responsibility for the Fire and Rescue Service and for the fire and rescue authority to cease to exist.
However, after listening to representations from the PCC and the Fire and Rescue Authority, the executive agreed to favour a “representation model”, which would see the PCC become the 17th member of the Fire and Rescue Authority. This would also enable the PCC to sit on a collaboration committee, a sub-committee of just two people created by the Fire and Rescue Authority to agree collaboration between the Police and the Fire and Rescue Service.
The PCC’s public consultation, which can be found at www.telljulia.com, ends on 22 September, and there was a request from the PCC that the Executive defer a response until after that date, but as a statutory consultee the authority felt it was important to take a lead.
The Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Carl Les, said: “I would like to think that this council is a responsive council. It is a council that listens. However, at times it also has to lead and this is such an occasion.
“At all the parish council meetings I have attended since this issue was raised, I have been asked for my opinion and to help people to understand the issues.
“The reason we support the representation model is that is it a stepped approach. It maintains the experience and collective wisdom of the elected councillors who represent communities across North Yorkshire. However, it does not preclude further changes should they prove necessary.”
Cllr Les urged the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire and Rescue Authority to work to see what they could achieve together to meet the financial challenges facing the Fire and Rescue Service.
He said the views of district councils which are currently considering the PCC’s proposals would be taken into account in the detail of the County Council’s response, along with public opinion expressed through the consultation and elsewhere.
The County Council’s response will form part of any submission by the PCC to the Home Office after the conclusion of the consultation.
In response to the county council’s decision, the crime commissioner said she was disappointed and urged councillors to think again.
She said: “I am disappointed in the council’s decision and I am particularly disappointed that the council decided not to wait until they had the views of the public and the workforce before making their decision.
“I have set out my reasons why I believe a change in governance is necessary, not least because we have an opportunity to reverse cuts being made to front-line firefighting roles. For the past few weeks, myself and my team have been out and about across North Yorkshire and today in the city of York, giving the public the chance to speak with me face-to-face about my proposals.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Fire Authority has decided not to grant my request for staff roadshows with the fire service. I believe firefighters and staff should be given the same opportunities to ask questions of me personally as I have afforded to the public during this consultation.
“I therefore ask the fire authority to reverse this decision with immediate effect.”