The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has condemned the decision to allow Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Stephen Mold to takeover the county’s fire and rescue service.
Announced by the Home Office this week it means the county council fire authority, which is made up of 57 councillors, will now be disbanded. The union says that transferring the governance in this way is a threat to the independence and neutrality of the fire service. There are also fears that fire service budgets could be raided in order to fund other projects headed by the commissioner. His title is set to become Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC).
Ben Selby, regional secretary of the FBU in 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.”
In the last few weeks, the Home Office has also announced plans for PCCs to take over fire services in Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire and West Mercia. Essex Fire and Rescue was taken over by the PCC there in October 2017.