The Policing and Crime Bill, which has now completed its Lords stages, introduces a new duty to collaborate between the emergency services and enables police and crime commissioners to take on the governance of fire and rescue services. Thanks to my hon. Friend’s excellent efforts, it will also allow police and crime commissioners to become police, fire and crime commissioners. My officials continue to work with key stakeholder groups, and I know that a number of PCCs are looking at this model.
I thank the Minister for his response and the fact that we will be changing the name of police and crime commissioners. Where there is a strong case for police and crime commissioners to take responsibility for the fire and rescue service, such as in Staffordshire, what will be the process and timeframe for implementing this very important change?
I know that the police and crime commissioner for Staffordshire is keen to move forward with this. Following Royal Assent, it will be for a police and crime commissioner to put forward a business case outlining a proposal. If it has local agreement, as I hope it will, it can move forward; if it does not, the proposal will be assessed by an independent group under a process to be agreed with the Local Government Association to make sure it is clear and transparent. I hope that by the end of this year we will see the first areas coming forward with police, fire and crime commissioners.
In Staffordshire, Matthew Ellis, the police and crime commissioner, has identified £10 million of savings if only the two can co-operate, as I am sure will be the case—and, incidentally, welcomed by firefighters throughout Staffordshire, as I am sure is the case in other parts of the UK. What does my right hon. Friend think the timetable will be for such mergers?
My hon. Friend makes a good point and highlights the considerable efficiency savings that could be found through collaboration and which could allow extra money to go back into the frontline for both police and fire. On the timeframe, it will be down to the speed with which the police and crime commissioner can present a business case. If there is local agreement, I would hope to see the first police, fire and crime commissioners coming forward a matter of months after Royal Assent.