The general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has warned that proposals from Theresa May, the home secretary, to bring fire and rescue services under the control of police and crime commissioners (PCC) are 'dangerous'. The home secretary released comments 19 December 2015 suggesting that by passing over responsibility to commissioners, it would provide "direct, democratic accountability" in the fire service.
In response Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Theresa May’s comments comparing the fire and rescue service with the police during the past five years are actually a criticism of the three Conservative ministers who have held responsibility for fire services during that period and of her opposite number, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. She criticises the lack of an independent inspectorate. This is something the Fire Brigades Union has consistently called for but which her own government has so far refused. Likewise, it is her own government which refuses to publish key data on the performance of the fire and rescue service. It is bizarre to criticise policies for which her own government has been responsible for.
“Associations with the police could damage the trust firefighters have built up in their communities. This trust is essential in order to have access to people’s homes for vital fire prevention work. PCCs have not proven particularly effective in governing the police, 40 per cent of them have ended up costing the taxpayer more than the authorities they replaced. Giving them control of fire services would be a costly experiment. The home secretary talks of increasing accountability, but PCCs were elected on a historically low turnout of just 15%. Abolishing fire authorities, comprised of democratically elected councillors, would sweep away vital democratic safeguards. Giving police and crime commissioners control of the fire and rescue service is a stupid and dangerous proposal. It is not supported by firefighters or by local communities and the decision to proceed down this road is a remarkable departure from a government which claims to be committed to ‘localism’.
“For the fire and rescue service to continue doing its job effectively it needs to remain independent and be properly funded by the government. Emergency 999 response times to fires are at their longest for 20 years, a direct result of this government cutting the number of firefighters, fire stations and specialist equipment.”