Shropshire fire service's ability to protect 'could be damaged in takeover'
Shropshire's fire service's ability to protect communities could be damaged were it to be "swallowed up" by West Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner, the head of the fire authority said.
Chair of the Shropshire & Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority Eric Carter also said in a letter to commissioner John Campion that he had the support of the public in continuing to challenge the "flawed business case" for a merger, despite a judicial review in Mr Campion's favour last month.
He was responding to Mr Campion's call for the authority to publish the costs of the legal appeal thus far.
Mr Carter wrote: "The amount paid by the fire authority so far is less than that spent on consultancy fees for your flawed business case to support the change of governance and is an investment in the future of Shropshire services rather than a cost."
He said that public consultations found that "every town and parish council within Shropshire" was against the proposal, and that the fire authority has since asked the new home secretary Priti Patel to review the decision.
Mr Carter said that the matter should be reviewed again because circumstances have changed since the takeover was approved by then home secretary Amber Rudd last year, including the scrapping of the Police Alliance between West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police.
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Mr Carter also raised concerns of a potential impact on the fire service's performance.
He pointed out that the service had been rated 'good' in all previous inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), contrasting it with West Mercia Police's official ratings from the same inspectorate in recent years which said it needed to improve.
"Shropshire Fire Service, at its most recent inspection, reporting in June this year, was rated 'good' in all three areas of efficiency, economy and how it deals with its staff," he said. "In fact Shropshire has received a consistent 'good' rating in all previous inspections.
"The fire authority understand the challenges of policing are very different, with forces often encountering overwhelming demand, but must draw your attention to the fact that, at its most recent inspection, West Mercia Police was rated as 'requiring improvement' in two areas and 'inadequate' in one.
"Despite this, you persist in promulgating the suggestion that swallowing up a good local fire service, within a complex arrangement that covers fire and police over Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire, will protect Shropshire communities better than Shropshire councillors deciding where to spend Shropshire money on the safety of Shropshire people.
"Quite simply, we do not agree. Nor do the overwhelming number of Shropshire residents who have taken part in our consultation; 90 per cent of whom are in favour of the fire authority continuing to challenge your bid to take over the fire service."
Mr Carter went on: "For the avoidance of doubt, every decision that the fire authority makes, both with regards to this matter and all others, is taken with the best interests of the communities that it serves in mind. It will continue to make decisions in the best interests of Shropshire people for as long as it is able to do so."