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From Helen Korfanty, PCC candidate: “With great power comes great responsibility"

May 2, 2016 10:51 PM

Helen Korfanty

"With great power comes great responsibility" -- Spiderman's Uncle Ben (and the National Convention in France, 1793)

How can the emergency services collaborate most effectively? And how can the Police & Crime Commissioner help, with the Police and Crime Bill (currently going through Parliament) due to give PCCs even more powers than they have already?

These were the big questions addressed at a recent symposium hosted by Westminster Training, on "Blue Light Services: Brighter or Blacker Days Ahead", which I attended at my own expense, as part of my ongoing efforts to be as well-informed a PCC candidate as possible. (Indeed, only one other PCC candidate attended the training session, despite all 188 in the UK being invited, and that other candidate is also a Fire Chief.)

The twelve speakers came from the disparate worlds of politics, the Fire Service Union, PCCs, ambulance services and academia, and the key points that I took away from the symposium covered a range of areas that will be vital to the success of the PCC in Suffolk.

Firstly, the new Bill intends to place a statutory duty on the Police and the Fire Services to collaborate. The consensus in the room was that they already do, but that further cooperation was both possible and desirable. It is important that our "blue light" services operate together as effectively as possible.

Secondly, the Bill suggests that a PCC could take over the local fire services if there is a "local demand" for this approach and if a business case has been made. Understandably, the attendees at the symposium had considerable reservations about such a drastic step, and I have to agree with these misgivings. How would we implement such an approach, were it required in law? The answer must be through collaboration and consultation -- and in being brave enough to reject the move if it isn't right for Suffolk.

Thirdly, we need to make sure that our Fire and Ambulance Services co-operate. At the symposium, we learned of excellent examples from across the country, in which the Fire Service has been able to save lives because they can sometimes get to the scene faster than the overstretched Ambulance Service.

The symposium reinforced my view that the Fire Services have their own separate identity, and that we need to maintain their independence. It is important to recognise that further cooperation with the police services could be beneficial, but that the priority in "blue light" cooperation should be given to the support that the Fire Service gives to the Ambulance Services. The Fire Service should be the "Emergency Services' Emergency Service", and the PCC should not be diverted into meddling with the current setup just for the sake of it.


-- from Helen Korfanty, Liberal Democrat candidate for the post of Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner