Herts crime commissioner's plan to close police and fire stations
PUBLISHED: 16:27 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:31 19 June 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2016
Hertfordshire’s police and crime commissioner could close blue-light stations in Hitchin, Hatfield and other towns if he gains control over the fire and rescue service.
That’s according to a business case David Lloyd has submitted to the Home Office as part of his bid to gain responsibility for Herts’ fire service and become police, fire and crime commissioner.
The business case for this, authored by Mr Lloyd’s chief executive Chris Brace with support from auditors KPMG, outlines the proposed closures in a section entitled “rationalisation of estate savings”.
The case conclusion says the “dedicated governance and joint co-location of police and fire emergency services enables the provision of expanded blue light services and opportunities for future enhancement”, and that “working collaboratively with better intelligence and information sharing will result in improved decision making and translate to increased public safety”.
The plan outlined in the document would see Herts Fire and Rescue headquarters moved from Hertford to the county police headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, with Hatfield and WGC fire stations also closed and folded into this joint station.
The Hitchin-based North Herts police safer neighbourhood team would be moved to the town’s fire station, with the police station in College Road closed and merged into Letchworth police station.
Finally, Bishop’s Stortford and Buntingford police stations would be shut and moved to “extended” fire stations in each town.
The financial net benefit of this plan is put at £12.9 million.
Hertfordshire County Council, which governs the fire service, today renewed its strong objections to Mr Lloyd’s takeover bid – as the Conservative-run authority’s cabinet voted to oppose it and submit its own case to the Home Office.
Councillor Terry Hone, cabinet member for commuinity safety, said: “We remain convinced that the PCC’s business case is flawed, as its proposed savings are based on inaccurate comparisons and untested assumptions.
“It also proposes generating income from changes to the location of several fire stations that have not been considered in the context of the operational risks that the fire service needs to manage, including the significant growth in new housing planned over the next 20 years.”
The county council’s Lib Dem opposition and Labour group have both backed the Conservative administration on this issue.
Lib Dem community safety spokeswoman Councillor Barbara Gibson said the plan would “take a highly effective and efficient service and put it into the hands of someone not qualified to run it”.
“The PCC’s revised submission shows his lack of understanding of the service, and his proposals are not based in reality,” she said.
“In fact, the latest disclosure shows that he intends to strip assets and close stations – which would undoubtedly result in slower emergency response times, potentially endangering life and property.”
She added: “Our fire and rescue service should not be a political prize. The PCC should concentrate on addressing the rise in crime, and keep his ambitious hands off our fire service.”
The Labour group’s community safety spokesman Councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell issued a joint statement with the Fire Brigades Union’s Hertfordshire secretary Daren Scotchford, demanding the bid’s rejection “in the strongest possible terms”.
“We have to look beyond these estimated savings, as behind these are people’s lives,” the statement reads in part.
“Firefighters, administration staff, emergency responders – none of these jobs deserve being risked through a damaging cost-cutting exercise. Doing so only puts lives at risk unnecessarily.”