This week I was delighted to be able to Chair a conference focused on emergency services collaboration – bringing together senior representatives across fire, health, police and coastguards. This was a valuable opportunity to take stock on the current collaborative landscape and learn more about the excellent work currently being undertaken.
Over the last year I have had the privilege of chairing the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group (ESCWG), an important role when we consider that all PCCs have a duty to collaborate under the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The Group understands that there is no one size fits all approach to collaboration and that in order to be successful it should be centrally supported but locally driven. We are keen to encourage collaboration across the widest range of partners in the interests of efficiency, economy, effectiveness and most importantly public safety.
This week strategic leaders and practitioners in collaboration came together, including Northamptonshire Chief Constable Simon Edens, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for police and fire collaboration, who set out why he believes collaboration is required to help deal with the changes in demand and meet public needs.
He highlighted how collaboration in Northamptonshire has provided a strong foundation for Stephen Mold PCC, who takes on responsibility for the local Fire and Rescue Service, to build upon as changes in governance come into force. Simon has been a hugely influential and dedicated member of the ESCWG and we wish him well in his forthcoming retirement.
The Home Office outlined its priorities in terms of what emergency service collaboration can achieve now the duty to collaborate is in place and how this interacts with the recently announced Serious Violence Strategy in terms of reducing harm. The Government want to see ambition in collaboration and fire governance reforms maintained across the sectors taking it ‘deeper and further’.
We also gained a perspective from the Ambulance Service which set out the scale of demand with over nine million calls annually and 30,000 emergency calls received daily. The collaborative opportunities are substantive.
The Policing and Crime Act 2017 has provided valuable opportunities for directly elected PCCs to engage in fire governance with a view to furthering police and fire collaboration where a local business case has been made. Roger Hirst, the country’s first Essex’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, outlined the benefits resulting from the change in governance and lessons learned – including on the need for effective engagement with partners new and old about the PFCC role. I have no doubt we will witness further benefits from Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire and West Mercia PCCs who have recently received approval from the Home Secretary to take on fire governance.
Successful collaboration between emergency services is driven by people. Whilst legislation and funding are enablers, it is the enthusiasm and expertise of practitioners which are key elements in overcoming barriers and getting collaboration right.
That is why the sharing of experiences at events such as this are so important – whilst this was the first such conference held by the ESCWG I am confident it won’t be the last.
PCC Philip Seccombe
APCC Portfolio Lead for Fire & Emergency Service Collaboration