HEREFORD and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has been made aware that The Home Office is intending to delay any plans to transfer governance of the Service from the Fire Authority to the Police and Crime Commissioner until at least after the Police and Crime Commissioner elections next May.

In a letter to the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, the Minister of State for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse MP, says that as more than two years have passed since the initial decision was approved in March 2018, a review of the business case is required to support the transfer going forward.

Mr Malthouse specifically stated: “Unfortunately, both the exceptional circumstances relating to COVID-19, and the timescales involved in considering a business case and implementing the necessary legislation if the Home Secretary approves the proposal, mean that it will not be possible for the Department to make a transfer prior to the elections in May 2021.

“The response to the current emergency may also provide learning that is relevant to the business case. It is therefore my expectation that the earliest we would reconsider a business case is after the elections.”

Councillor Roger Phillips, chairman of the Fire and Rescue Authority, has welcomed the move.

“We believe that the existing arrangements form a tried and trusted system which is to the benefit of the Service and to the communities which it serves,” he said.

“I hope the Police and Crime Commissioner will take the opportunity over the next few months to fully engage with the Fire Authorities, so that any final proposals are both transparent and take on board the need for maintaining both the capacity and resilience of the two Fire Services, Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire, to protect their local communities – now and in the future – as opposed to just focusing on theoretical ways to save money that could actually have a detrimental impact on the quality of the services they deliver.

“In the meantime, we will continue to work with Shropshire in the Fire Alliance to improve effectiveness and resilience and will continue to work in partnership with West Mercia Police.”