I realise its all relative however these are exciting times in the world of Fire and Police governance. The Police & Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, has made it clear that the Government expects to see real progress on its Fire Reform programme in 2017 and part of that is the expectation of greater collaboration between the Bluelight services. With the Police and Crime Act now in place we are likely to see significant changes in how our local Fire services are governed, with the potential for Police and Crime Commissioners to take on the role currently provided by local fire authorities.
Catherine Levin's excellent recent interview with Roger Hirst, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Essex is both interesting and illuminating. Essex are now out to consultation on their plans for a new governance model and so Hirst could be the first Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. In the interview Hirst highlights the potential for the new governance model to drive 'better collaboration' and that is certainly a real prize. I agree with Hirst that there a lots of examples of 'good collaboration at the tactical level' and there must be scope to achieve more at a strategic and policy level. I suspect a lot of the challenge here will be demonstrating those benefits to the electorate and wider public.
The theme of 'better collaboration' is one that we explored in our 2014 report on Fire & rescue collaboration http://www.grantthornton.co.uk/insights/fire--rescue-collaboration/. I am sure the some of the lessons set out in the report, particularly how you drive a successful collaboration project, remain relevant and will be helpful as police and fire services move closer together.
One of the arguments put forward by Hirst for the change in governance is that the current approaches to collaboration such as sharing back office functions etc. are not far reaching enough. “There’s a real opportunity here in Essex. I think that better collaboration will mean a better response to public safety issues across the county.” He elaborates this point by noting, “there is good collaboration at the tactical level. I think we can do more at the longer term, more strategic level. To do that you need to have alignment at a policy level between the two emergency services”.