TALKS are under way between police and fire chiefs over the future of the two services.
Michael Lane, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, has said the county’s chief constable and the fire and rescue service chief officer are looking into further collaborations.
The police service has already moved into fire headquarters in Eastleigh last year and Southsea’s neighbourhood team moved into the district’s fire station this year in an arrangement that has been mirrored across the county.
Now a ‘jointly-commissioned analysis’ may probe the possibility of working together further.
The announcement comes in response to the government’s Police and Crime Bill, which sets out that police and crime commissioners can take over a fire authority, where a local case is made. It also places a ‘duty of collaboration’ on services.
Mr Lane said: ‘The Police and Crime Bill potentially offers us increased opportunities to improve operational effectiveness to make Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton the safest places to live, work and visit. This analysis will give us up-to-date evidence of this added value to inform our response to the Bill.
‘This strategic analysis is being undertaken mutually and with full support of Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Authorities to explore how the emergency services can work even better together.
‘I’m delighted to be collaborating closely with my colleague Cllr Chris Carter, chair of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority, and Cllr Phil Jordan, portfolio holder for Public Protection for the Isle of Wight.’
The Police and Crime Bill is at the committee stage in the House of Lords, where it is due to be debated next week.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, represents rank-and-file police officers.
He said further collaboration was ‘inevitable’ due to the government’s plans, saying: ‘It’s a start of significant reform for police and fire.’
But he added: ‘We can’t force areas of the business together where there’s not a natural fit or not in the interests of the public or organisations as well. My concern is when we start talking about operational deployments.
‘That’s where I think we complement each other but we can’t replace each other.’
He added: ‘My warning shot is there must be recognition that both emergency services do very, very different things and culturally are very, very different.’
Cllr Carter added: ‘We look forward to working more closely with our blue light colleagues to benefit our communities and support our residents in a more integrated, efficient way.’
The commissioner’s spokeswoman said ambulance services had also been contacted.