Closer collaboration between emergency services
The government has made clear through the consultation process now underway that they want serious consideration given to much closer joint working between our emergency services.
My starting point is the need to provide to the people of Essex we serve and who pay for these services the most effective and efficient service possible. I am more interested in that than jumping to any conclusions during the consultation period which ends on October 23, 2015.
I note for example that our emergency services each own a large number of buildings and vehicles. Police, Fire and the Ambulance service all have separate control centres and support set-ups, and I would expect there to be opportunities for savings. I also note that Essex Police already operates from a number of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service buildings across the county.
What I hear regularly from members of the public is that they value strong local connections to their key services and they value local visibility. With a more joined up public safety and emergency service of some sort it would be much easier to achieve that. In addition, it is already the case that our emergency services work very closely together in responding to incidents of great harm such as road traffic collisions. Sadly 749 people were killed or suffered serious injury on our roads in the 12 month period to the end of August 2015, and the joined up response of our specialist services to such incidents is both crucial and well established. My question is: could it be more efficiently delivered?
It is also essential that our emergency services work ever more closely with the community and voluntary sector, particularly in helping to keep frail and often vulnerable elderly people safe. I will be asking: is it sensible that this is being approached differently by all three services?
I note that our police and fire services are geographically based in Essex, including the County Council area and Southend and Thurrock. Our ambulance service however is regional, based across the East of England, and is part of a health service facing complex challenges.
I believe there is a strong case for looking at all opportunities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our emergency services, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, governance and command and control. But I would most certainly not suggest asking our excellent and professional police officers and fire fighters to take each other’s roles. That makes no sense to me.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex