HERTS LIB DEMS BACK COUNTY COUNCIL FIGHT AGAINST HOSTILE TAKEOVER OF FIRE SERVICE

Grenfell TowerPolice & Crime Commissioner's proposal would strip assets and close fire stations

Hertfordshire County Council today renewed objections to a bid by Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd to take over the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. The Council's Cabinet voted to continue to oppose the hostile takeover and to refute the PCC's latest claims.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Barbara Gibson, Opposition Spokesperson for Community Safety, said: "This is another example of an ill-conceived Government initiative that would take a highly effective and efficient service and put it into the hands of someone not qualified to run it.

"The PCC's revised submission shows his lack of understanding of the service, and his proposals are not based in reality. In fact, the latest disclosure shows that he intends to strip assets and close stations, which would undoubtedly result in slower emergency response times, potentially endangering life and property."

Cllr Gibson also criticised the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Panel, the body supposed to hold the PCC to account and approve major decisions. "You would think that a proposal of this magnitude, which will impact the entire PCC organisation, would have been subject to discussion and debate by the Panel. But the topic was never discussed or voted on, the plans never scrutinised, apparently because the PCC and the Panel's Chairman felt it was not necessary. That is not good governance.

"Our Fire and Rescue Service should not be a political prize. The PCC should concentrate on addressing the rise in crime, and keep his ambitious hands off our fire service."

Lib Dem County Councillor for Tring, Nick Hollinghurst, added, "The Police & Crime Commissioner's office has failed to make a persuasive business case for taking over Herts Fire & Rescue - but there's another side to this which we have already seen with the earlier takeover of the Hertfordshire Constabulary. There has been a massive dilution of democratic accountability.

From having 77 councillors and a county-wide 18-strong committee, which included magistrates and members of the public, available to oversee policing, we now have one single Commissioner whose only formal accountability to the public is by 4-yearly elections. Few people know about these elections and very few vote - one year the turnout in the election for this key post was only 11%!

It will be same with the Fire & Rescue Service. Instead of oversight and responsibility being with 78 local and accessible county councillors this valued and much respected service will be in the hands of the same man who is running police.

Cllr Hollinghurst concluded, "Surely it should be clear to everyone by now, a year on after the ghastly tragedy of Grenfell Tower, that what we want is more democratic accountability for fire services and fire regulations - not less!"