Why is the government consulting on abolishing fire and rescue authorities in England?
Earlier this month I filmed the first meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s Police and Fire Collaboration Committee and blogged about its first meeting.
Around the time of that meeting, there had been talk of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority possibly being abolished and transferred to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority if Merseyside had an elected Mayor which would happen at the earliest in May 2017. This formed part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s proposals to central government for greater devolution (as reported on this blog).
Since then the government has started a consultation (which finishes on the 23rd October 2015) called the Emergency Services Collaboration Consultation which proposes abolishing all fire and rescue authorities in England and transferring their powers to the Police and Crime Commissioner (on the left of the photo above).
This article in the Guardian about the consultation on the proposals has the opening two sentences which sum things up, "What do you do if you’re part of a government that believes in decimating the fire and rescue service as a means to making "efficiency savings", only to find yourself regularly thwarted by elected councillors who sit on the local fire and rescue authority? Answer: abolish the fire and rescue authority."
For those opposed to the proposed Saughall Massie fire station, the concept of such savings being thwarted by councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will sound strange. The opposition to the plans for a fire station at Saughall Massie are coming from the local Conservative councillors for Moreton West and Saughall Massie and local residents compared to the councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority who are unanimously in favour of closing Upton and West Kirby fire stations and a replacement fire station at Saughall Massie.
It 2012 the Merseyside Police Authority (made up half of local councillors and half of independents) was scrapped and replaced with a Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner. It would seem the Conservative government wants to do something similar to what the Coalition government did to the police authorities in 2012, but this time to the fire and rescue authorities in England.
What happened to the police authorities and their replacement with police and crime commissioners plus police and crime panels was part of the Coalition agreement:
The Conservative 2015 manifesto stated "We will enable fire and police services to work more closely together and develop the role of our elected and accountable Police and Crime Commissioners." but didn’t go as far as stating the fire and rescue authorities would be abolished and their functions transferred to the police and crime commissioners.
This government consultation on abolishing with fire and rescue authorities for England, shows a national political will for less oversight by local councillors of the fire services in England and goes against the grain of the localism agenda.
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