Gloucestershire Council boss 'in bid to discredit PCC'

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Martin Surl
Image caption,
Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl could run the fire service if the government rules in his favour

A council boss has been accused of organising a campaign to discredit a police and crime commissioner's move to take over the local fire service.

A leaked email from Gloucestershire County Council's Peter Bungard, seen by the BBC, includes plans to use taxpayers' money to fund a PR campaign to show the PCC "is out of touch".

Gloucestershire PCC Martin Surl said he was seeking legal advice.

The county council said it was working on a mandate voted on in 2018.

The dispute stems over a disagreement over who should run Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue, which was run by the council for 40 years.

In 2017, the government invited Mr Surl to investigate whether he could do a better job.

The council has been consistently against this idea and the final decision rests with the home secretary.

'Air War!'

In an email to senior figures at Gloucestershire County Council, Mr Bungard wrote about a campaign called "Air War!" which aims to defeat the PCC's arguments on running the service.

It also mentions promotional videos, a social media strategy, a newsletter, story books and an attempt to get all the county's MPs onboard to persuade the government they are against the PCC's plan.

"Our overall goal is to reclaim the moral ground. Any campaign needs to be robust enough to stop PCC having another go in the future," it reads.

In responses, Mr Surl said: "I have to put up with political attacks, but this is fundamentally wrong.

"I hope these emails are not true."

In a statement, Gloucestershire County Council said its officers were given a cross-party mandate in 2018 to oppose the PCC's position.

They added: "It is completely acceptable for council officers to work to highlight this position. Any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour is simply not true."

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