A bid by the West Midlands Combined Authority to take over the running of the region’s fire service should be treated with caution, warns MEP James Carver.
As a UKIP representative for the region in the European Parliament, Mr Carver is urging the public to “think carefully” about the plan, which would give the mayor sole accountability for the governance of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service.
He said: “The current trend of placing accountability for public services in the hands of one person, backed up be scrutiny panels with few teeth worries me.
“If this change goes ahead, the West Midland’s mayor – currently Andy Street – will be responsible for the Community Safety Plan, budgeting, setting the fire council tax precept and appointing the chief fire officer, who in turn, would be directly accountable to the mayor.
“A fire advisory committee will review the mayor’s decisions, but I fear there could be a democratic deficit and we need assurances that this committee will have some powers of veto.”
Mr Carver said the proposal also looked like a “done deal” adding that he was not surprised the public consultation, which ends on Thursday (March 8), had received little publicity.
“The consultation document – which I only received today – is yet another of these multiple-choice surveys, which ask leading questions to secure the required result and I really do question their value.
“I also think the fire authority, knowing that the government was insistent that a change of governance would take place, backed the combined authority as a better choice than being taken over by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, which was an option.
“But if they think the combined authority is a cash cow, I fear they are mistaken, especially after Mr Street’s failed bid to secure a £6 million council tax hike this year, and I fear that phrases like “joined up thinking” between local authorities, health providers and police, leading to “reduced costs” are euphemisms for service and job cuts.
“Governance of public services is extremely important and planned changes need careful consideration, more detail on the table and greater opportunity for public debate.”
West Midlands Fire Service Governance Consultation
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