FBU condemns PCC takeover in Northamptonshire
THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) criticised the decision to allow the local police and crime commissioner (PCC) to take over governance of the county’s fire service.
The UK government previously agreed that PCCs ‘can take on the role of local fire and rescue authorities where plans are supported’, though rejections include previous arguments against proposals in Hertfordshire, which recommended against the move. There has been criticism in Norfolk, and while Essex and Avon became the first two fire authorities to be taken over, Merseyside’s PCC joined the fire authority, a Thames Valley takeover and merger was abandoned, and North Yorkshire’s takeover has been delayed.
In response to the decision approving Stephen Mold, Northamptonshire’s PCC, to take over Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS), the FBU stated that it ‘condemned’ the move. It also commented that transferring governance in this way ‘is a threat to the independence and neutrality of the fire service’, and expressed concerns that budgets ‘could be raided in order to fund other projects headed’ by the commissioner.
Ben Selby, regional secretary for the East Midlands, said: ‘Many of the arguments in favour of PPC takeover of the fire service focus on “efficiency savings”. This is not how we should decide on how our life-saving emergency services are run. The priorities become skewed. There are other, more democratic and devolved models of governance on the table, rather than the tired PCC model.
‘This model will end the independence that firefighters consider vital in order to carry out their jobs. This includes the ability to engage with local communities and gain access to people’s homes. It is widely understood, including among senior police officers, that the roles of the two services are completely different and that the ability of the fire and rescue service to engage with local communities in new ways, over the past decade, has largely been due to public awareness of this difference.”
The FBU also pointed out that the Home Office has approved plans for PCC takeovers in Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire and West Mercia in the last couple of weeks.