Herts crime commissioner speaks out following controversial fire service proposal
Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has spoken out about his controversial proposals for the future of the fire service and why he didn’t attend the public meeting.
David Lloyd submitted a business case outlining how the fire service headquarters could be moved to the county police station in Welwyn Garden City, with Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield fire stations potentially closing and folding into the joint new base.
His plans sparked opposition from the county, borough and town councils, Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps withdrew his support and last week a public meeting was hosted by Labour councillors.
About 150 residents, councillors and the Fire Brigade Union who are against Mr Lloyd’s proposal attended the meeting.
A spokesman for Mr Lloyd said; “As he currently has no role in the governance of fire and rescue services it would have been premature of him or anyone from his office to attend.
“If fire governance is transferred from Hertfordshire County Council to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office, he will convene his own meetings.”
Mr Lloyd told the Welwyn Hatfield Times that there were “no formal proposals” to close any of the three fire stations in Welwyn Hatfield.
He said: “My business case for the Fire Service includes existing plans for developing Community Safety Hubs, which would bring together police and fire on purpose built sites, allowing them to work more effectively together, in modernised and improved facilities, to improve public safety.
“In the case of fire such improvement is vital to tackle issues around an increasingly aging estate.”
The Home Office asked him to provide specific examples as to how this might be achieved and Mr Lloud highlighted the opportunity provided by the redevelopment of the Police HQ site in Stanborough.
According to Mr Lloyd, police and fire representatives have been discussing possible options which could be progressed on that site.
These include building a new Fire Service HQ on the site and co-locating the police and fire control rooms.
They are also exploring the option of re-siting one or two of the existing three fire stations in new facilities on the site.
Mr Lloyd added: “The exploration is at an early stage and a feasibility study would be required before any specific proposals were drawn up.”
If they do reach that stage they would be subject to an extensive public consultation.
He continued: “No proposal is being considered which would result in a reduction in the resource or coverage of the fire service in Welwyn and Hatfield.
“The aim of any proposals would be to provide new, modern and more effective facilities and improve the service to the public.
“Indeed, one of the benefits of having a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner is that the public’s view would be at the forefront of decision-making.
“If the Home Secretary approves the governance transfer, my first step will be to have a conversation with the public about what they want from their fire service in Hertfordshire.”
In response to Mr Lloyd’s proposals, Welwyn Hatfield Council leaders sent a letter to the Home Office addressed to Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP expressing their concerns towards the proposals.
It explains how last year, as part of the consultation into fire governance in Hertfordshire, the council unanimously agreed that it was opposed to the plans.
The letter, signed by all three leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat groups, expressed how at the latest council meeting a motion was unanimously agreed that the council believes the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescues Service should remain under the control and democratic accountability of Hertfordshire County Council.
It continued: “Futhermore, we have serious concerns over the Police and Crime Commissioner’s proposed changes and the very serious impact on response times this could lead to.
“We believe that the consequent increase in risk is, in this council’s view, unacceptable.
“We hope that you will take our points into consideration when you are making the important decision on the governance of the fire service in Hertfordshire and the detrimental impact we believe this would have.”
Daren Scotchford, secretary of the Hertfordshire Fire Brigades Union, said the PCC’s plans to close and relocate fire stations had been based on the distance, rather than risk.