Plans to combine fire and police services in Shropshire criticised
Plans to control both police and fire services under one organisation have been branded a "power grab" and a bid for "an empire".
Both Telford & Wrekin Council leader Shaun Davies and Shropshire Council's leader Peter Nutting said they had concerns about the plans put forward by Police Crime Commissioner John Campion, who wants to see West Mercia Police and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service controlled by a joint commissioner.
The commissioner said the plans would improve "effectiveness and efficiency" – but both authority leaders say they have concerns about what the move would mean locally.
Councillor Nutting, who represents Copthorne in Shrewsbury, said: "Personally, I am not keen on the proposal but it will be discussed by all councillors over the next weeks and then a decision will be made.
"I would wonder about the control we would have locally if this happened. If John Campion has his way, it will be combined with the work of four counties which is a huge area. I wonder about how manageable that would be.
"It is nothing less than John Campion trying to build himself an empire. I will make my opinions known but I will also talk to other councillors before we make a public decision."
Councillor Davies also raised his concerns over the plans, which were revealed earlier this week.
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He said: "Concerned by John Campion attempt at a "power grab" over fire reforms. I'll be asking a cross party group of councillors to advise me on this."
Currently, West Mercia Police is overseen by Mr Campion, along with Chief Constable Anthony Bangham. The Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority oversees Shropshire's fire services, and controlled by chief fire officer Rod Hammerton.
The plans come as part of legislation launched last year that will allow police and crime commissioners to take over fire services, in a bid to see a more joined up approach.
It means PCCs could potentially create a single employer for both police and fire personnel if they are able to demonstrate a clear business case for doing so.
A public consultation is now set to be held on the proposed changes.
On revealing his plans, Mr Campion said that he hoped to build on the "good foundations set by our fire and rescue authorities".
He said: “However well these areas are performing now, it is only through proper and meaningful integration with each other that we can fully unlock the potential benefits.”
The business case will be discussed at a meeting of the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Authority on Wednesday at 2pm.
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