Consultation on combined fire authority set to move ahead

Plans for a 12-week consultation into creating a new combined fire authority for the Island and Hampshire look set to move ahead.

The Isle of Wight Council’s Cabinet is being asked to accept the detailed business case and give the green light for the consultation when it meets on 14 June.

The new body, if eventually approved, would bring together the governance of the Island’s fire authority – which is currently the council – and the Hampshire Fire Authority, which includes the Portsmouth and Southampton areas.

Following the consultation and Full Council consideration, the proposal for a combined authority will go before Cabinet to approve. The final decision will rest with the secretary of state.

Cabinet member for public protection, Councillor Tig Outlaw, said: “In March this year our Full Council accepted an outline business case for a combined fire authority but at that time we felt it was right and necessary to ensure the Isle of Wight community was presented with the detailed business case prior to consultation.

“This is the next stage in that process as we, and Hampshire, look at the case to combine the overall governance of our two authorities. No change to the current operations of our fire and rescue service is envisaged in this report.

“The Cabinet will now assess the comprehensive version and look to undertake a thorough 12 week consultation involving key stakeholders, including unions, town and parish councils and the Isle of Wight public.

“This is about achieving what is best for our Island community, ensuring the future resilience of the service and the safety of our residents.

“We already have a strategic partnership agreement with Hampshire. This has brought improved capacity, shared expertise and significant career development opportunities for firefighters and officers. That current agreement comes to an end in 2020 and the proposed combined authority is the next potential step.”

Since the partnership began in 2015 there has been combined working between the Island and Hampshire in strategic leadership, fire control and mobilising, health and safety, fleet and equipment maintenance, and other areas.

“This new comprehensive business case explores the risks and benefits of a new combined authority, with public safety paramount alongside a focus on efficiency, effectiveness and economic factors,” said Councillor Outlaw.

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“The report suggests a combined authority would improve levels of service, including in key preventative areas such as community and business safety initiatives. It would enhance capacity and help toward future improvements and development. This consultation will now give us the opportunity to listen to our community’s views on the proposal.”

If approved by the council’s Cabinet, the consultation would begin during the summer, with a similar process taking place in Hampshire. A report back on the findings would be due in the autumn.