West England police takeover of fire authorities ‘risks services’

23 Aug 19

The planned takeover of two fire authorities by West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner would risk cuts to the service, the Fire Brigades Union has warned.

PCC John Campion, who has dismissed the claims as “scaremongering”, wants to bring Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire fire and rescue services into ‘single governance’ with the local police.

But the FBU’s West Midlands regional secretary Andrew Scattergood warned of the prospect of “so-called efficiency savings” if the move goes ahead.

He said: “The fire and rescue governance should remain completely independent from the police.

“We have significant concerns about a humanitarian service being mixed with a crime-fighting service. Firefighters should not be seen as an extension of the law.”

The PCC and the fire services have been locked in a legal battle over the takeover; in July the High Court rejected an application for a judicial review into the home secretary’s decision to allow the move.

The services said they intend to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Chair of the Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority Roger Phillips said the ‘efficiencies’ Campion proposed are possible without the police takeover.

In his view, joint working with Shropshire will save money without single governance with police.

He also said the Home Office judged the business case to be “neutral”, and CIPFA (appointed by the government to independently review the PCC’s plans) said projected savings had been “significantly overstated”.

Campion has previously said the benefits of single governance “have been clearly and consistently acknowledged”.

He said after the High Court threw out the judicial review: “This process has gone on long enough.

“Two years on from when I published my business case, the potential improvements within it remain almost entirely untouched. I don’t believe that is what our communities want, need or expect.”

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