SHROPSHIRE’S fire authority has lost its latest court battle against a planned takeover by the police and crime commissioner, but the body’s chair says it plans to fight on.

Mr Justice Graham ruled that then Home Secretary Amber Rudd was right to grant control of the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to West Mercia PCC John Campion last year.

Mr Campion said the benefits of joint governance had been “clearly and consistently acknowledged”, and said the legal challenge “has gone on long enough”.

But Councillor Eric Carter, who chairs the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, said the unsuccessful judicial review was over a technicality, but flaws in the PCC’s business case remain.

By giving the go-ahead for Mr Campion to take the fire brigade under his control, Ms Rudd was implicitly agreeing the move was “in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness” – the tests set out by law.

Shropshire’s fire authority, along with neighbours Hereford and Worcester and their counterparts in Cambridgeshire asked for a judicial review because they didn’t feel she hadn’t examined the public safety implications closely enough and considered the “efficiency and effectiveness” of the planned move altogether and on balance, rather than individually.

Mr Justice Garnham found Ms Rudd had taken account of public safety but had not applied the tests properly, but was confident she would have arrived at the same decision had she done so.

Responding to the judgment, Mr Campion said the benefits of joint governance have been “clearly and consistently acknowledged”.

He added: “This process has gone on long enough.

“Two years on from when I published my business case, the potential improvements within it remain almost entirely untouched. I don’t believe that is what our communities want, need or expect.

“The money the fire authorities are spending on expensive legal fees could be better spent on front-line firefighters and the resources they need to keep us safe.”

An accounts report, discussed at the Fire Authority’s most recent full meeting in June, showed the authority spent £8,000 out of a £70,000 legal costs pot in 2018-19.

Cllr Carter said the High Court decision “wasn’t a surprise” but wasn’t the end of the road for an independent Fire Authority.

“Just because we pursued the judicial review on a technicality doesn’t mean we think the business case is any good, and that is the basis we will proceed on,” he said.

The Fire Authority has already asked new Home Secretary Priti Patel to re-examine the business case.

Cllr Carter said there were some areas of the country where fire and police governance had been merged, but these were areas that had a “failing service” beforehand.

“We’re a successful service,” Cllr Carter said, citing a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services which had rated the Shropshire brigade as “good”.

Cllr Carter also said the business case cited West Mercia Police’s alliance with Warwickshire Police as an example of co-operative working, and said the PCC’s decision to dissolve this alliance, announced in October 2018, undermined this.