South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner could eventually take control of the county’s fire brigade as the two emergency services enter a new regime of close co-operation which will see their property portfolios and vehicle fleets jointly managed.
The arrangements are designed to maximise efficiencies between the two organisations and PCC Dr Alan Billings is intending to now monitor both how the new arrangement operates in practice and how the North Yorkshire model, where PCC Julia Mulligan has recently taken control of the county’s fire service, works out.
Dr Billings said the intention of the collaboration was that “hopefully we will make savings and efficiencies” with a new board now established between the two organisations to pursue that work.
“What I am saying at the moment is we have a collaboration board and we will see how that works. I have to keep an open mind about the governance of fire.
“It may be a way of making things happen more quickly and efficiently. I will watch very carefully what happens in North Yorkshire and will see whether it does yield anything more than we can do through the collaboration board.
“We may be able to do everything we need to do without going down that road, but I will keep an open mind,” he said.
The two services already share premises at Maltby in Rotherham, where a police and fire station operate from the same site.
Another major change will be the closure of police maintenance garages at the Main Street station in Rotherham, with that work being transferred to premises in Eastwood currently operated by the fire and rescue service.
The two organisation’s public safety departments are now also working as one entity to maximise the savings available by cutting out the overlap between the services they provide.
Where commissioners take control of both emergency services, it is recognised there is potential to continue with chief officers for both fire and police, or to operate with one chief responsible for both services.
However, Dr Billings said he would be in favour of retaining independent chiefs for each of the services, should he take control of both at any point in the future.
Both services have faced severe cuts nationally in the last few years as austerity cuts from central Government have bitten deeply, with both losing staff and equipment.
Working together could potentially reduce accommodation costs for both by sharing premises and the increased buying power of purchasing for both organisations from the same suppliers could also work to reduce spending.