On Monday 11 September, in a meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Council - Labour put forward a motion that would have this Council reinforce it's opposition to the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner's plans to merge the Police and Fire service under his control across Hertfordshire. Plans that our local MP Grant Shapps supports, despite every other level of Local Government objecting to them.
Labour put forward:
- "This Council is disappointed in the decision of the Police and Crime Commissioner to submit his intention to the Home Secretary to align Police and Fire services within his remit.
- This Council notes that ahead of any decision by the Home Secretary, the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is advertising a vacancy for a senior position to facilitate "the potential change" in governance.
- This Council resolves its previously expressed opposition to these plans and re-affirms its previously passes resolution that there should be no reduction to existing fire service provision on Welwyn and Hatfield."
Labour Councillors spoke in favour of this motion, highlighting how important it is that we keep our fire service intact and calling on Conservative and Liberal Democrat members to join and support this motion.
The motion was passed unanimously, rightfully reasserting Welwyn Hatfield Council's opposition to this plan and fully supporting our Fire Service.
You can read Councillor Kieran Thorpe's full speech below:
Thank you madam Mayor, I raise this important issue tonight because I feel it is important for this council to underline its view on this matter.
I would like to thank the cabinet for making their previous statement in opposing this plan
And I bring this motion to council tonight to allow other Councillors the opportunity to endorse that view.
Put simply, not only here but up and down the country,
The strange oddity that is the concept of a Police and Crime Commissioner is being used as a tool to make cuts to our Fire Services.
Those members who have read through the business case for Hertfordshire, will have seen that is contained scarcely any detail of any efficiencies that could be made.
Which is understandable given people generally react badly to being told their emergency services are being cut.
The case also talks up potential opportunities for services to work closely together,
But actually these services already are working closely together.
Welwyn Hatfield has seen its fair share of fires, indeed sometimes very serious and large fires in recent years.
But our firefighters are regularly called to attend serious road accidents, all too frequently.
We’ve seen the fire service already impacted by austerity, and regardless of these plans being approved by the home secretary, even if the fire service stayed as it is, further cuts could still be made.
But what we cannot abide, what we cannot agree to,
is a situation where this happens without any scrutiny of Councillors – and that’s the point.
We may not agree on many things here in this chamber, and that’s the case at County Hall too. But that is the basis of our democracy at a local level.
Issues are raised, detail is argued and everything is done in public before a decision is made democratically.
I’ll give you an example of the alternative, of what happens when you don’t have that level of oversight -
A job vacancy advertised on the police commissioners own website for a senior position, with a salary far exceeding that of any regular firefighter or police officer
With a remit among other things, to carry out this merger BEFORE the decision has been made by the home secretary.
That is not how our emergency services should be managed,
that’s not open, transparent democracy.
I hope all members can join with me in sending a clear message to the home secretary that this is not in the best interests of residents of Hertfordshire or Welwyn Hatfield and that we back the Cabinet of this Council in objecting to this service cutting proposal.