Invitation remains for PCC to explain benefits of co-option

Dame Vera Baird.
Dame Vera Baird.

Northumberland County Council has declined a request from Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Vera Baird to be co-opted onto the council.

Under the Policing and Crime Act 2017, a PCC may make a request of a fire and rescue authority to be permitted to attend, speak and vote at meetings of the authority on items of business which relate to fire and rescue matters.

However, after discussion at full council, debate at the cross-party scrutiny committee and consideration at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, members felt such a move would add ‘little or nothing’ to the democratic process.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “The invitation remains open for Vera Baird to attend our non-political scrutiny committee, which includes a balance of all political groups, and explain any benefits to be gained from her proposal to the effective operation of our fire and rescue service. It is acknowledged that their selfless work during the latest snow event was essential in reaching out to many vulnerable residents across our county.”

Coun Jackson also said that it was a ‘shame’ that Dame Vera had decided to bring politics into what is an essential service.

He added: “What we see on the ground already is a close relationship between our fire service and police service, and between the fire service and other services.”

A spokeswoman from Dame Vera said: “It is disappointing that the Conservative administration at Northumberland County Council has not adhered to the spirit of the legislation – so much so, that a Government Minister commented on the delays it had taken the council to consider the matter and the fact that they were interpreting legislation to put in other hurdles (business case).

“The Commissioner is committed to delivering efficiency, effectiveness and improved public safety and being part of the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Authority would have helped further enhance this delivery for local residents. Tyne and Wear Fire Service has embraced this model and the Commissioner is fully involved in their work, it is regrettable that Northumberland County Council has chosen politics over delivery of enhancing further the work of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.”