Scilly’s Council Votes To Give Up Fire And Rescue Services
The government has asked local authorities for their views on proposals to make the elected Police and Crime Commissioners accountable for the provision of fire services.
It’s an idea that’s designed to save money.
On Tuesday Scilly’s Chief Fire Officer Steve Webster presented councillors with the arguments for and against the proposal, outlined within the consultation.
The reasons for keeping islands’ control of the fire service centre on the “unique circumstances” of Scilly and the current site share arrangements with the ambulance and the coastguard.
Steve also advised that islanders enjoy significantly more home fire safety inspections, sometimes annually on the off-islands.
Some mainlanders have never had them because of budget cuts.
The Council does well financially from an independent fire service.
Back in 2009, officers convinced the Home Office to offer more funding than the standard formula allocation because of our social deprivation and coastal flooding risk.
They receive more money than it costs to run the service so it generates a surplus.
Cllr Ted Moulson, who sits on the Police and Crime Panel, told councillors that he’d heard it was “given” that the change would be enforced in “a done deal.”
Members heard that the level of response shouldn’t change if the PCC took over and some councillors felt that handing over the fire service could remove “a significant risk.”
Cllr Gaz O’Neill’s said it offered a “win, win’ situation.
But Cllr Colin Daly asked how the fire staff at the airport would be affected.
Meeting Chairman Robert Dorrien Smith responded by saying the airport would be, “under a shifting regime.” That’s because the Council will end its airport operation within the next 11 months, now they’ve decided to hand back the lease.
All but one member voted to back the government’s proposal for the PCC to take on the fire service here.
Cllr Richard McCarthy abstained. He wanted our Council to first talk to Cornwall Council’s Fire and Rescue service, from whom Scilly contracts services.
After the meeting, Radio Scilly spoke with Cllr Geoff Brown, the Cornwall councillor responsible for Fire and Rescue.
Cornwall Council’s view is that governance of fire under Cornwall Council is fine and, unlike Scilly’s Council, Cornish councillors will fight to retain control of their fire service.
He attended the Local Government Association Fire Commission on Tuesday, where senior civil servants said the proposal would only happen if all local parties were willing.
And yesterday the government reaffirmed to him that the proposal was not mandatory.
Cllr Brown has welcomed an approach from Scilly’s Council to see if there are benefits by closer working across the two Fire Authorities.