Public don't mind who governs their emergency services, says North Yorkshire police commissioner

North Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner has claimed the public don't mind who governs their emergency services, provided they do a good job, as she submitted her proposals to take over the county's fire authority to Ministers.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner of North Yorkshire.
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner of North Yorkshire.

Julia Mulligan has published the business case setting out why she wants to replace the North Yorkshire fire authority, despite opposition from local councils.

She hopes to follow in the footsteps of Roger Hirst, who became the country’s first combined Police and Fire Commissioner this month in Essex in a move the Government hopes will mean closer collaboration between and police and fire services.

Mrs Mulligan wants to adopt what she described as a ‘governance’ model, where she takes over from the fire authority in its role setting the budget for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and overseeing its work.

But both City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council, among others, have said they prefer a ‘representation’ model, where Mrs Mulligan would simply become a voting member of the authority.

The Conservative crime commissioner says she has the support of the public and the workforce for her preferred option, citing the results of a survey carried out earlier this year.

When presented with the two options, and the more radical ‘single employer’ scenario where there would be just one chief officer for fire and police, 55 per cent of those surveyed supported the governance model.

This rose to 61 per cent among the 1,514 North Yorkshire residents asked by polling firm MEL Research, but was just 48 per cent among online respondents.

She wrote in her report: “There have been concerns that members of the public asked to respond to this survey wouldn’t be able to comprehend so complex a topic in a short space of time.

“I appreciate those concerns, and we worked hard to ensure that the assessments set out in the business case could be conveyed comprehensively. Indeed, the responses clearly indicate that residents did understand the different options.”

She also carried out eight information events across the county over market days and weekends, speaking to 1,400 people.

In her business case submitted to the Home Office she wrote: “What became clear to me during these events was that the public, while interested and willing to engage on the future of their public services, ultimately don’t mind who governs their emergency services if the job is done effectively and efficiently and they receive a high level of service.

“From their response, they feel my proposal will do just that. Their priority is straightforward: a good police service and a good fire service. The governance model affords the opportunities to make both better.”

The Home Office will carry out an independent assessment of the proposals.. A key factor in whether the Government approves the plans is whether they have local support.

County council leader Carl Les said in August that a “stepped approach” was preferred. He said: “It maintains the experience and collective wisdom of the elected councillors who represent communities across North Yorkshire. However, it does not preclude further changes should they prove necessary.”

Concerns raised by local councils included the possible impact on public safety, but Mrs Mulligan said public safety would benefit because of “improvements in efficiency and effectiveness”.