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Police and Fire Services: Collaboration

Volume 626: debated on Monday 3 July 2017

4. What steps her Department is taking to encourage greater collaboration between the police and fire services. (900118)

8. What steps her Department is taking to encourage greater collaboration between the police and fire services. (900123)

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 introduced a raft of new measures to drive greater collaboration between emergency services, including a new duty to collaborate and enable police and crime commissioners to take on governance of fire and rescue services where a case is made. The Government continue to expect the pace and ambition of emergency services’ collaboration to increase.

Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner, Matthew Ellis, has identified savings of at least £3.6 million a year from the integration of police and fire services, and he has committed them to bolstering frontline services in each of those two areas, as well as to investment in preventive measures, especially relating to fire. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such integration should progress where there is a strong local business case for it?

My hon. Friend is right. Where there is a strong business case and collaboration can improve outcomes and save money, which can then be used for the frontline, it should be encouraged. I welcome the good work that she has been doing with Matthew Ellis to deliver just that.

Roger Hirst, the Essex police and crime commissioner, has moved himself and his staff into fire HQ, saving £1.5 million, and has identified a further £23 million of potential savings in governance. What more can be done to encourage such excellent work in Essex and across the country?

I thank my hon. Friend for giving me another great example of the sort of collaboration that we are trying to encourage to improve outcomes and save money that can be used on the frontline. I congratulate him on his good work with his PCC, Roger Hirst, and wish them well in that new endeavour.

Both police officers and firefighters have told me that they are increasingly called to assist residents experiencing a mental health crisis, so I was very concerned when the collaboration in Nottinghamshire, which saw a mental health nurse based in the police control room, was axed in May because of a lack of funding, even though the scheme was described as successful and valuable. What discussions has the Home Secretary had with chief constables and chief fire officers about how best to support their staff who are dealing with members of the public experiencing mental health problems of that sort?

I share the hon. Lady’s view about how important it is to ensure that people with mental health crises or difficulties are treated differently. If she wants to write to me about the particular example she has set out, I will certainly look at it, but I am proud of the work that the Government have done to reduce the number—I think by nearly 80%—of young people with a mental health crisis ending up in police cells. The more we can do to address that, the better.

The Merseyside police and fire services already collaborate closely and are looking at ways of collaborating further. Does the Home Secretary accept that the scale of her Department’s financial cuts to the police service and the fire and rescue service in Merseyside makes that job much more difficult?

It is a good thing that we have protected police funding from 2015 to 2020. I admire enormously the work that the police and fire services do, and we will continue to look at how better we can support them. One of the ways that we have heard about today—I know that Merseyside has led on this too—is through collaboration, which will allow stronger working, better outcomes and money saved for the frontline.