Council boss cool on Simmonds’ ‘merger’ plans

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Talk of a possible merger between Northamptonshire’s police and fire services has been labelled premature by the leader of Northamptonshire County Council.

Last week, the county’s Conservative police commissioner, Adam Simmonds, said he would like to see a merger of the two forces and could envisage a time when a combined force would be run either by him or his successor.

The announcement was said to have enraged Conservative politicians in the county, with Northampton South MP, Brian Binley, accusing Mr Simmonds of “wanting to take over the world”.

Speaking to the Chron yesterday, the leader of the county council, Councillor Jim Harker (Con, Kettering Rural) also dismissed talk of one person running all the county’s emergency services.

He said: “It’s certainly not on the agenda to have one person in charge. That would be a massive step.”

The council leader did say he wanted to see the police and fire services work more closely together and pointed out the fire service’s headquarters would move from Moulton to Wootton Hall – where the police are already based – within the next few weeks.

But he said he was ‘at pains to point out’ no merger plan was currently on the cards.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to work with Adam in any way that improves the quality of service the people of Northamptonshire get and no stone will be left unturned.

“But nothing is going to happen quickly.”

Mr Simmonds said last week that plans for a possible merger had come forward after 12 weeks of talks.

Councillor Harker has since said those talks were only “on a very informal level” and indicated that the fire service would remain under the control of the county council, if that was the best way forward.

He said: “I don’t have any preciousness about who runs the fire service, as long as it’s run the best way possible for the people of Northamptonshire.

“And if the council can do it best, we’ll keep doing it.”

He did however insist that the public wanted to see the emergency services work more closely together, adding: “I’m very excited about the opportunities this could lead to, but there’s a huge amount of work to be done yet to make sure we’re going in the right direction.”