GLOUCESTERSHIRE'S Police and Crime Commissioner has launched a public consultation on who should oversee Gloucestershire’s Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS).

At the centre of the consultation, the second held this year, is whether the county council is the right body to supervise the organisation or whether it would benefit from change. The long-running debate on the issue was originally triggered by the Government’s wish to see a more joined-up approach in the way police and fire services work together, and the desire for local fire services to be more accountable.

Following overwhelming opposition from the county council, Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl decided to suspend reform last September, but he says this was done only on the council’s assertion its existing governance arrangements were sound, and an assurance from the authority that progress would be made towards closer collaboration between police and fire.

The latest development comes after Gloucestershire County Council was forced to find a new chief fire officer, with Wayne Bowcock appointed earlier this week. Former chief Stewart Edgar sold a surplus service-owned Land Rover vehicle for £500, which he later bought for himself and later resigned from his £147,000-a-year position after a whistleblower reported his behaviour.

Under the Policing and Crime Act, which became law last year, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners (PFCCs) can assume responsibility for both services or they can be run by one chief officer under a PFCC.

Mr Surl said: “This decision has been justified by the recent publication of the council’s own internal audit report following recent whistleblowing concerns which, among other things, recommended a review of Fire and Rescue Service governance.

"This is not a takeover bid and never has been."

But Councillor Jeremy Hilton, Gloucestershire Lib Dem spokesman for the fire and rescue service, disagrees and has called it a "takeover bid".

"There is absolutely no need to reopen a discussion," he said.

"It would be much better for the county council to continue to work in partnership with the police to further develop collaborative projects."

The final decision will be made by the Home Secretary based on the evidence of the consultation and where a local case is made.

To have a say in the consultation visit, email, or write to Office of the Police Crime Commissioner, Gloucestershire Constabulary, No. 1 Waterwells, Waterwells Drive, Quedgeley, Gloucester GL2 2AN.