West Mercia Fire Governance Consultation
The Police and Crime Commissioner believes that by changing governance arrangements for our local fire services in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin we can deliver more effective, efficient services to our communities.
He is proposing to take on the roles of our two local Fire Authorities, in order to significantly improve local police and fire services and save the taxpayer £4m a year without impacting frontline services.
The Commissioner is consulting our communities and partners on these proposals and wants to hear from as many people as possible before the closing date on the 11th of September. The information on this page is designed to give you everything you need to understand the plans, the reasons behind them and to take part in the consultation.
Please click on the links below to:
– Find answers to some of the questions you may have around this subject. Some of these are answered at the bottom of this page
You can click the image on the left to download all of these documents as the full consultation pack.
Alternative formats of the consultation are available, please contact the PCC’s office if you require help with this.
Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said: “These proposals are about delivering the best long term results for our communities and our emergency services. Our Fire Authorities have laid some good foundations, but it’s clear to me that our communities are not getting the most effective, efficient services they could. That can only be achieved by making this change.”
“By ensuring our police and fire services are collaborating and integrated as much as possible we can deliver better emergency responses, improve prevention measures, and increase information sharing between the services. It allows us to deliver necessary efficiencies in a way that protects the frontline, fully respecting and retaining the professional skills and knowledge within each service and geographic area, which I think is a key priority for our communities.”
“I value your input on this important subject, thank you for taking part in the consultation.”
Q & A
Will this mean I get a better or worse service when I need help from the police or fire crews?
In itself, a change in governance does not directly impact frontline services. It does not affect frontline firefighters or police officers and most things would stay exactly the same at first. One aim of bringing governance together is to make it easier for our police and fire services work together more to improve the service you get.
Will frontline officers be lost as a result of this?
No. If anything, this proposed change of governance would actually help protect frontline officers. Our police and fire services need to find efficiencies at the moment. Working together more would help them find those efficiencies in support functions, rather than on the frontline.
Will specialist equipment be lost from our police or fire services?
No. That would not be acceptable and is certainly not part of these proposals. Police and fire services would work more closely though on joint procurement and sharing best practice to improve resilience.
Would this mean a reduced presence or visibility from our police or fire services in local communities?
No. The PCC is already working to improve community visibility for police and would not compromise that for either service. In the future it could be that, for example, our police and fire services share more buildings, but they would still retain their community presence.
Would these changes mean a loss in local identity for our fire services?
No. Both fire services would still exist as individual organisations, as would West Mercia Police. The same local police and fire teams would be responding to incidents as we have now. Their names and branding etc. would not be affected and they would still serve the same communities they do now.
Will this mean that funding from one area, which currently goes to one service, could be used to prop up other services in different areas?
No – this could not happen. Each service would retain its own budget, income, expenditure and reserves. These would all be ring-fenced to each specific service and geographic area.
Would the fire services be merged together? Would they be merged with the police?
No, the services would work more closely together, but they would not be merged. This would help maximise the benefits of collaboration, without losing the identities, brands and public confidence of the organisations.
What are the benefits here in terms of finances or efficiencies?
A change in governance would enable a saving of around £4m to the taxpayer each year. This would be from the efficiencies that can be achieved by our two fire services and our police force working more closely together and sharing more support functions.
Do our police and fire services need to save money? Would this change help with that or not?
Both our fire services and our police force have been well governed up to now, but they haven’t worked together as well as they can. All three organisations do need to find further efficiency savings in the coming years. In percentage terms, our two local fire services are facing the largest savings targets of any nationwide. West Mercia Police is implementing savings of £9.5m this year, with a further £21.9m projected by the end of 2020/21.
These proposed changes in governance will not single-handedly solve these challenges. However, they would save an estimated total of £4m per year and help ensure that each organisation is squeezing as much efficiency from its back-office function as possible, and therefore offering some increased protection to frontline services.
Could we get better collaboration and integration between our police and fire services without this change in governance?
In theory it is possible, but the reality is that it has not happened. Collaboration between our police and fire services does go on, but it is limited and does not go far enough to maximise the possible benefits to our communities. A change in governance to have a single body overseeing all three organisations would help provide the catalyst to get this progress moving forward.
What are the alternatives to these proposals? Why aren’t they possible?
There are a couple of alternatives.
- Maintain the status quo of having a PCC and two fire authorities. This option would not realise any of the potential effectiveness and efficiency benefits of single governance.
- Create a ‘single employer’, and have our police and fire services as part of one big organisation. This is not proposed as an option as it could blur the lines between policing and fire and could risk compromising the specific professional skills of each service.
Who has made these recommendations? Can we trust that they know what they are talking about?
The PCC engaged independent business consultants to assess this issue. They included Doctors and Professors who are experts in their fields. The lead consultant has 30 years of experience working with businesses across the public, private and third sectors, reviewing their processes, organisational structures and operations in order to maximise their effectiveness and efficiency. The consultants gathered and analysed evidence, including from talking with senior police and fire officers, the local Fire Authorities and partner organisations, before presenting their conclusions.