- Home Secretary says powers for police & crime commissioners over fire will not be a ‘takeover’
- Theresa May wants to see a more rigorous and independent inspection regime
- Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl says the county council would not want to give up control of the fire service but must consider what the Home Secretary has said
- Proposed changes not yet mandatory
Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl listened with interest as the Home Secretary Theresa May delivered her first speech on fire service reform today (Tuesday 24 May).
Addressing an invited audience which included other high-level representatives from emergency and other public services; central and local government officials and business leaders, she outlined how the role of PCCs could include new responsibilities for fire service governance.
She likened how fire services are currently run to the police authorities she abolished in 2012 but said that powers for police and crime commissioners over fire would not be a police takeover or a top down merger of roles. Instead, she called for a more rigorous and independent inspection regime.
“Governance in fire and rescue bears all the hallmarks of the flawed police authorities I abolished in 2012, bureaucratic committees of appointed councillors without the direct democratic mandate to drive real change or the public profile to engage local people.
“In policing, I replaced police authorities with single, visible individuals held to account in the strongest possible way – at the ballot box. And three weeks ago, more than 9 million people did just that when they voted for a police and crime commissioner to oversee their local force on their behalf”.
Mr. Surl, who was attending in his new role as Chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said,
“The Home Secretary made it very clear that she wants fire services to be more open to public scrutiny. I have never sought control over the fire service, and I have no doubt the county council would not want to give it up, but we must consider what the Home Secretary has said.
“The important distinction between operational policing and firefighting will be maintained – fire officers will not be given the power of arrest and the law will continue to prevent full-time police officers from training as firefighters, but there are similarities between the two services.
“Whilst it’s not mandatory, it’s clear she recognises there are areas where we already work together effectively and she expects us to sit down and work together constructively to realise the benefits”.
It was the first time Mrs. May had spoken on the issue since the Home Office took over responsibility for fire services in England in January.
“We will bring the same direct democratic mandate to oversight of fire and rescue services – by giving police and crime commissioners the ability to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made.
“This provision, which is already in the Policing and Crime Bill currently making its way through Parliament, will bring greater accountability to the work of local fire and rescue services where it is taken up and provide stronger leadership in keeping the public safe”