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£120k-a-year fire authority blasts move to replace board with Police and Crime Commissioner

By Carl Jackson | Staffordshire | News | Published:

Fire bosses have issued scathing criticism on proposals to merge with a police force – a move that would effectively dissolve their posts, potentially saving taxpayers a fortune.

Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis has declared his preferred option would see him take over the function of Staffordshire’s Fire and Rescue Authority, while the two services would maintain their own identity.

The authority, which is made up of 21 members who also serve on Staffordshire county and Stoke city councils, was paid nearly £120,000 last year in allowances and expenses with chairman Stephen Sweeney picking up more than £20,000 on his own.

Mr Ellis has said axing them will save £2 million over 10 years while clarifying he will not be paid extra for picking up their duties.

Now the fire authority has opposed the proposals expressing a ‘number of concerns’.

They stated that the governance model could undermine public confidence.

Instead, they have argued the merger should adopt the representation model which would simply see Mr Ellis become a member of the of the fire authority with voting rights but only where the authority agrees it is appropriate. The fire authority has claimed the business case for the merger, produced by independent consultants Prederi costing £91,000, also lacks evidence.

A report, which will be discussed today, states: “The authority is of the view that a wholesale change based largely on assumptions and not evidence could very well detrimentally affect public, partner and government confidence in the organisation.

“The authority is strongly of the opinion that the representation model could deliver all the benefits of the governance model at less risk.”

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In response to the report Mr Ellis said: “The independent report (business case) was produced with help of the fire service and police service professionals. It is focused on doing what is right to make both the police and fire more sustainable in the future.

“The whole reason behind doing this is to put money back into frontline services.”

Chairman of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Stephen Sweeney said: “The draft consultation response is based on views expressed by the fire authority members at a recent development event.

“The draft will be further discussed by the full authority at its forthcoming meeting on August 24 .”

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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