Could joint Leicestershire police and fire service save cash?

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Leicestershire’s police and fire services could merge, in a radical scheme to save millions of pounds.

The idea has been floated by Neil Bannister, the Conservative candidate for the role of Leicestershire’s next Police and Crime Commissioner.

Lawyer Mr Bannister, who lives near Lutterworth and is a Harborough district councillor, said: “There may well be discussions ahead about whether the Fire Authority can be combined with the Police Authority.

“The Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner (Conservative Matthew Ellis) has taken a lead on this.

“He has identified savings of £6.4million in Staffordshire. I believe this is an idea that’s well worth exploring in Leicestershire.”

Mr Bannister said he would be keen to protect front line services in any potential merger.

But he said at a time of shrinking resources for both the Fire and Police Authorities, a merger could be helpful to both.

Chief Fire and Rescue Officer for Leicestershire, Richard Chandler, gave a sympathetic response when contacted by the Mail this week.

He said: “It is clear that greater joint working between the emergency services can deliver better local accountability, an improved service for communities and significant savings for taxpayers.”

Staffordshire’s Mr Ellis has already said: “There is much more that can be achieved for the benefit of residents if a fully-integrated police and fire service came to be.”

He has highlighted:

n Setting up a single management team.

n Forming a joint control room and call centre.

n Combining estates and property.

n Joining up procurement, finances and insurance.

n Bringing together ‘leadership, processes and policies’.

n Working more closely together on community projects.

“What I want to avoid is duplication in the back office work of the two services” said Mr Bannister.

“Identifying savings in this way could be a way of protecting front line services in Leicestershire.”

The current Leicestershire Police Commissioner, Sir Clive Loader, who was also a Conservative candidate, has said he would step down at the next election for the job, which is in May.

The role of the Police and Crime Commissioner is to be the elected voice of the people and hold the police to account.

Commissioners are responsible for the totality of policing, aiming to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service.

Commissioners replaced the now-abolished Police Authorities, which were largely made up of councillors.

But part of a new commissioner’s job may be to convince the public of the value of his role.

The turnout for the last election of the Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012 was just 16 per cent, one of the lowest ever seen for any election in Leicestershire and Rutland.