YORKSHIRE’S police and crime commissioners should take responsibility for fire services to cut duplication and save taxpayers’ money, according to a senior minister.
Chris Grayling welcomed existing moves by PCCs to co-ordinate the work of police and fire services but argued there was a case for going much further.
The Government has promised to change the law so police and crime commissioners can replace traditional fire authorities, made up of local councillors, in overseeing the work of the local fire service.
As part of Greater Manchester’s agreement with the Government to take over more control of its own affairs, the city’s new elected mayor will also become the police and crime commissioner for the area and take responsibility for the fire service.
Mr Grayling, Leader of the House of Commons and a member of the Cabinet, told The Yorkshire Post the joining of police and crime commissioner and fire authorities was “very logical and what we want to see happen”.
He said: “One of the things [police and crime commissioner Matthew Grove] has done over in Humberside is to integrate the maintenance of police and fire vehicles.
“We’ve formed the view it is logical to create a situation where the police and crime commissioners can oversee both, you don’t have parallel authorities duplicating structures, duplicating resource. You don’t need two teams of mechanics to maintain vehicles. One team can do both.”
But he insisted the Government would not force the new breed of elected metro mayors, such as the one proposed for South Yorkshire, to follow the Manchester example and take on the role of police and crime commissioner.
He said: “The whole point about what we’re doing at a local government level is to let change grow from the bottom up so we are offering extra powers to local areas but we are saying you need to demonstrate how you are going to use them.
“Sometimes that may mean an elected mayor, Greater Manchester has gone down that route, there’s going to be mayor in East Anglia but East Anglia’s got three or four police forces with three or four police and crime commissioners so in that area the roles won’t be merged.
“What this is not is a top-down reorganisation of the way local government takes place in the country. It’s about saying we are prepared to push these powers out from Whitehall, we want to see evidence from you that you’ve thought through how you’re going to use them and who is going to be accountable for them but we’re not going to impose a one-size-fits-all solution.
“In the case of West Yorkshire, it’s conceivable in the future there could be a West Yorkshire mayor who is also the police and crime commissioner but that’s a matter for West Yorkshire to come up and say that’s what we want rather than us at the centre saying that’s what’s going to happen.”
Mr Grayling was speaking as he campaigned with former police chief superintendent Allan Doherty, the Conservatives’ candidate in the West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner election who is challenging Labour incumbent Mark Burns-Williamson.
All four of Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner posts will be contested on May 5, the same day as local elections in many parts of the region.