BlogNewsPlea to halt PCCs' fire takeover bid

Plea to halt PCCs' fire takeover bid

Plea to halt PCCs' fire takeover bid

West Midlands MEP James Carver is calling on the Home Secretary to abandon controversial plans for police and crime commissioners to take over fire authorities.

Mr Carver, whose area includes three counties whose fire services would be controlled by the West Mercia PCC, said the plan smacked of “empire building”.

Also within his constituency, the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority would be scrapped and the service controlled by Staffordshire PCC Matthew Ellis.

Mr Carver, from UKIP, said: “To have governance in the hands of a directly elected political figurehead – with little mandate – provides no political balance and no democratic safeguards.”

The West Mercia PCC, Conservative John Campion, believes the move will save an estimated £4 million a year and help ensure that each organisation is “squeezing as much efficiency from its back-office function as possible”.

Mr Carver said: “This includes control room staff – hardly back-office – and, of course, back-office staff are essential to efficiently functioning frontline fire and police services.

“This ‘squeezing’ makes me fear the further risk – already experienced by West Mercia Police according to my constituents - of experienced but over-stretched, stressed out personnel also quitting our fire services, which will do nothing to enhance their effectiveness.

“County and city councils – with members of all political persuasions - have overwhelming voted against the proposal, because they are unconvinced about the cost-saving claims and oppose the politicisation of another emergency service, with a single figure wielding too much power.”

The Fire Brigades’ Union is hostile to it, not least because it fears associations with the police could damage the trust firefighters have built up in their communities.

In a statement on its website, the union claims PCCs “would neither deliver economic, efficient or effective emergency services, nor optimise public safety”.

Police and crime panels have also been rejecting the idea, including West Mercia’s, which yesterday (Sept 26) voted 11-2 for Mr Campion to withdraw his proposal stating it would be a “disaster” and the £4 million predicted saving was “questionable”, given the lack of financial information and a robust business case.

Mr Carver added: “Top-down reorganisation is not the way to build strong democracy. Neither is there any compelling evidence to show how savings, such as Mr Campion’s £4 million a year, would be achieved and sustained and at what cost to the effectiveness of our fire and rescue services.

 “As the FBU warns, the merger of our two local fire authorities for Shropshire and Hereford and Worcester, would, alone, be a costly and complex exercise, fraught with practical and technical barriers.

“Mr Campion will point to the 61 per cent of 1,300 survey respondents who favoured the merger largely on financial grounds. I would query the efficacy of these multiple choices surveys which ask leading questions to secure the required result, and the value of so few comments from West Mercia’s 1.2 million residents.

“It is essential that public money is spent efficiently and effectively on our public services and it is also essential that they are run democratically.

“If Mr Campion and the other PCCs press ahead with their submissions, which I am sure they will feel duty bound to do seeing as the government gave them £1 million to develop the proposals – I will implore Amber Rudd to consider the very real concerns of those with knowledge and experience of running and controlling emergency services and seek a better way forward.”

The deadline for submissions to the Home Office is October 1.

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