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County agrees deal with PCC after fire service stand-off

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A deal has been struck which is set to end a controversial attempt by Hertfordshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) to take over the county’s fire and rescue service.

Hertfordshire CC strongly opposed the bid but has now co-signed a memorandum of understanding with PCC David Lloyd (Con), who submitted a proposal to assume responsibility for the governance of the fire and rescue service to the Home Office in March 2017.

The agreement sets out principles on future joint working between the PCC and the council, with a focus on developing further collaboration between emergency services.

Mr Lloyd has now asked the home secretary Sajid Javid to suspend his consideration of the business case he submitted, which will be withdrawn when final working arrangements are agreed.

The deal between the PCC and council includes an agreement that the governance of the police and fire and rescue services will remain separate.

Proposals to be examined include establishing a single control room, the development of response protocols in areas of joint responsibility and a joint venture to manage public estates and property.

The stated long-term aim is to integrate all emergency services, with an “open invitation” for the East of England Ambulance Service to be represented in future arrangements.

Hertfordshire previously described the business case submitted by Mr Lloyd as flawed and based on “inaccurate comparisons and untested assumptions”. 

Council leader David Williams (Con) welcomed the agreement signed earlier this week, saying it provides clarity which will “enhance practical, blue light collaboration”.

He added: “We remain committed to seeking opportunities to improve the fire and rescue service’s efficiency and cost effectiveness.”

Mr Lloyd said he would have liked a “speedier” resolution to the process, but added the agreement was a “positive step”.

He said: “As a result of this, I’ve agreed to suspend my business case on the understanding we can make significant and speedy progress on exploring the objectives set out in the memorandum of understanding.”

The government announced in 2016 that it would press ahead with plans for PCCs to hold fire and rescue services to account in a bid to improve collaboration across emergency services.

Essex PCC Roger Hirst (Con) became the first police, fire and crime commissioner last year. In March the government announced PCCs in Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire and West Mercia would follow suit.

Last month Norfolk CC said a bid by the county’s PCC to take control of the local fire and rescue service would put the public at risk and is based on a “misleading” business case.

Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey then angered Norfolk by reportedly telling the council’s community committee that he backed a single governance structure and insisted PCC Lorne Green’s (Con) proposal was based on a compelling business case.

Norfolk CC has not commented on Mr Bailey’s comments, but sources said there is “very real surprise at the chief constable’s political intervention”.

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