Andy Street, the West Midlands metro mayor, has had hopes of taking over the fire and rescue service dashed, after failing to gain the support of local authorities. Four of the seven West Midlands councils have refused to support the move, after strong opposition from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Firefighters argued that the “power grab” would revoke democratic control of the fire service from local authorities represented in the Fire Authority, in favour of distant regional oversight. Fears loomed that placing the entire region under control of a single Conservative mayor could result in poorly thought out decisions, including the potential of massive cuts to community fire cover, as seen elsewhere in the country.
A statutory instrument approving the bid was due to come before Parliament this week, but has been scrapped after Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Coventry local authorities wrote to the Home Office expressing their opposition. Approval from all seven local authorities in the region is required for the takeover bid to go ahead.
Andrew Scattergood, FBU West Midlands Secretary, said:
“Andy Street needs to realise that his takeover bid is dead in the water. The body that governs the fire service needs to be democratic and accountable to the communities we serve, and the proposal by the Mayor’s office fell short of having any credibility.
“Firefighters risk their lives every single day. They need to have confidence that the people that govern their service are not just making the right decisions, but are being held accountable to their actions. This proposal was nothing more than a self-indulgent power grab that wasn’t in the interests of firefighters or the public.”
The rejection by local authorities means that the Mayor does not have approval for the takeover in its current form. FBU officials have urged the Mayor’s office to abandon the bid, which could resurface with substantial changes.