Police tsar plan for fire services branded ‘crazy’

North Yorkshire PCC, Julia Mulligan. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
North Yorkshire PCC, Julia Mulligan. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

A former North Yorkshire chief constable has branded a plan for the area’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to also run its fire authority a “crazy idea”.

Julia Mulligan, who has been PCC since 2012, could take over governance of North Yorkshire Police (NYP) and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (NYFRS) after legislation passed by Parliament now means that commissioners can make an application to oversee both.

The move, one of three options that Mrs Mulligan has laid out in an ongoing consultation with the public, would mean that each authority retains operational independence and separate chiefs, roles and identities.

And the Conservative has insisted that her proposals are “not about me” – but will save taxpayers £6.6m, she said.

There is agreement at government and at local levels that the current system is not driving collaboration between the two services quickly enough.

But former NYP chief constable Della Cannings, who is currently a governor at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, criticised Mrs Mulligan’s plans.

Posting on an online petition, which refers to her plans as a “power grab”, she wrote: “Crazy idea...collaboration can occur without the involvement/takeover of the ‘independent’ Police and Crime Commissioner.” The petition – so far signed by only 10 people – was set up by Darlington-based Philip Knowles, understood to be chairman of the Richmondshire Liberal Democrats. It opposes Mrs Mulligan not 
offering an option in her survey to retain the current way that the authorities operate.

Ashley Mason, the Liberal Democrat vice-chairman of the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises the commissioner, also warned against “a wholesale takeover by the PCC”.

The two other ideas outlined by Mrs Mulligan in her consultation are her simply becoming a voting member of the fire authority, with the most dramatic option being her replacing the authority altogether and appointing a single chief officer to lead both services.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “Everybody agrees that the current status quo is not good enough. It’s very poor on the part of the Liberal Democrats to suggest the public should pay £6.6m to maintain the status quo when we can save that money by changing.

“It’s not about me. It’s about what’s right in the interests of the public.”

Responding to Ms Cannings’ criticism, she said: “A lot of former chief constables never wanted PCCs in the first place.

“They don’t like the idea of additional scrutiny it brings.”

Ms Cannings was the chief constable of NYP between 2002 and 2007, later chairing Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

People can visit www.tell
julia.com to share their views until September 22. A review of the business case will then be carried out before an application is made to the Home Secretary.