- Former Gloucestershire Chief Fire Officer Terry Standing is supporting a proposal that will change how Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) is governed
- Mr. Standing, who was deputy chief fire officer from 2001-2006 and chief officer from 2006-2010, led the service when the county was at the centre of a national flooding emergency in 2007.
- He said, “it’s a great opportunity to develop a much closer and more effective collaboration between the police, fire and rescue services and other agencies in both prevention and emergency situations”.
- The proposal is for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to take over governance of GFRS. The final decision will be made by the Home Secretary in the New Year.
Proposed changes to how Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) is governed would open an exciting new chapter for firefighters, former Chief Fire Officer Terry Standing said today.
Explaining his support for the proposal, he said change could be the catalyst for an innovative new approach to community safety.
He said, “Our police and fire work well on the ground when called to the same incidents but is that because of us or in spite of us? Governance could mean just governance but actually I think it could mean something really, really exciting – it’s a great opportunity to develop a much closer and more effective collaboration between the police, fire and rescue services and other agencies in both the prevention and emergency situations.
“We once had a vision that started with the Tri-Service Centre at Waterwells in early 2000, but unfortunately that vision and potential has stalled along the way. The council has done excellent work but it’s impossible to avoid the distractions and competing pressures from other budgets within the council when you [GFRS] are a small player.
“I think that the proposed new governance model will give clear direction for Gloucestershire’s safer communities whilst still maintaining the two chief officers and separate services – and we have a great opportunity with a new chief fire officer starting in March next year – sitting alongside a chief constable, can actually start to do that blue sky thinking Gloucestershire was once acclaimed for.
“And if it’s got some governance that says ‘Let’s give it a try; let’s support that’, as opposed to ‘Let’s not do it’ because of conflicting pressures, I think that from the public’s point of view that’s not a bad outcome”.
Mr. Standing, was deputy chief fire officer from 2001-2006 and chief officer from 2006-2010, and was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal following the service’s response to the 2007 floods when unseasonably torrential rain saw Gloucestershire at the centre of a three week national emergency.
He said, “July 20, 2007 was one of the toughest day’s this county has had when its fire and rescue service turned out at the start of a flood rescue operation that lasted three weeks. Those people who went to the end of the world for their communities were ‘just doing their job’. And they were really proud of ‘just doing their job’.
“Just doing their job”
“When I joined the fire service in 1979, you were skilled in a range of roles. Firefighters today are highly skilled, professional people with expertise in areas like urban search and rescue, high volume pumping, command and control because they have been developed for the world they now work in”.
The question of fire service governance was originally triggered by the Government’s desire for a more joined-up approach in the way police and fire services work together; making local fire services more accountable to the communities they serve and to see if reforms which have brought greater accountability and transparency to the police could do the same for the fire service.
Under the Policing and Crime Act, which became law last year, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners (PFCCs) can assume responsibility for both services or they can be run by one chief officer under a PFCC.
An independent report, sponsored by the Home Office last year, highlighted strong evidence the county would benefit greatly from reform to how GFRS is governed. That report was refreshed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and an outline business case is currently out to public consultation.
The public consultation runs until 21 December. You can submit your views by clicking here
The final decision will be made by the Home Secretary based on the evidence of the consultation and where a local case is made.
The options for change
- No change / status quo: This would mean Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service remain part of the County Council and collaboration is progressed on a voluntary basis.
- Representation: This is where the PCC would become a formal part of the existing governance for fire and rescue in GCC, with full voting rights.
- Governance: Here the PCC takes on responsibility for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service in much the same way he currently does for Gloucestershire Constabulary. The role would become the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. Police and fire would retain their own chief officers and staff and be operationally independent of each another.
- Single employer: This is where the PCC would take on responsibility for fire alongside the police and also appoint a single chief officer for both services. Front-line services would remain distinct but support services would be increasingly integrated.