ESSEX Fire Authority has voted to axe itself.

Its role was to govern and supervise the county's fire service but it has been regularly and heavily criticised.

The new proposal is for the police and crime commissioner Roger Hirst to take over the role.

He said: “It would mean better co-operation and more effective support services.

“They will still be two distinct blue light services."

There have been concerns from firefighters a closer relationship might make the public wary of them.

Mr Hirst said: "Most of the public regard the police turning up as a good thing but it is clear we do not want any element of the public to not think they can call the fire service due to fear of arrest so they will be kept separate.”

The move, if approved, could lead to many job losses with the majority of both the police and fire service's budgets spent on staffing.

Mr Hirst said these would be subject to separate consultations.

The total combined workforce is currently about 6.800.

He claims combining so called back office roles would not only save money, including by sharing premises, but will improve public safety and the management of the fire service.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service was described as corrosive, toxic and dysfunctional in 2015 and while some improvements have been made there are still problems.

And Chief Fire Officer David Johnson has been suspended for two years at a cost of millions of pounds despite no evidence of misconduct being found against him.

Mr Hirst said he hoped these problems are resolved before he takes over, subject to consultation, but said if not he is the man to resolve them.

He added: "I would say the expertise of having a PCC rather than the police authority has been effective in terms of speed of decision making, more direct access and helping to resolve issues."

He said he is not in favour of a joint chief officer because it would "muddy the waters" on the operational side.

And he revealed although the move would free up money for frontline services he would not be looking to limit the fire service cuts before 2020.

The cuts include the loss of 138 wholetime firefighters and several fire engines from stations.

Mr Hirst said he is keen to move to the Kelvedon Park headquarters as soon as possible and it is more likely a new police headquarters would be based there if the deal goes ahead.

He insisted operational roles will not be compromised.

The operational side, such as fighting fires and catching criminals, will remain separate.

Residents are being urged to have their say.

The recommendation is for the police and crime commissioner to take over from the Essex Fire Authority, similar to the way the role was created to take over duties from the Essex Police Authority.

The fire authority has voted to move ahead with the proposal.

There are four options, One involves doing nothing, another involves commissioner Roger Hirst sitting on the fire authority and a third involves even closer collaboration with a joint head.

However the preferred option is for joint governance.

The 12 week consultation began yesterday.

If approved Essex would be the first county to go ahead and the change could be made by October 1.

Commissioner Roger Hirst said: “We have developed a case for Essex to strengthen our emergency services, improve joint working and deliver significant savings.

“The resources freed up would be reinvested in front line services and enable both emergency services to better protect the people of Essex.”

It could save £23million by 2026.

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