Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

LGA Lib Dems: Fire Services Briefing from Cllr Jeremy Hilton

All comment articles
Friday, 13th November, 2015

The LGA Lib Dems support Liberal Democrat council groups across England & Wales The LGA Lib Dems support Liberal Democrat council groups across England & Wales

Government Plan to give control of Fire Services to Police and Crime Commissioners 

Liberal Democrats in Local Government are leading the charge to oppose plans to transfer Fire and Rescue Services to Police and Crime Commissioners, arguing that the existing system works well in ensuring accountability and is also working to deliver reductions in fires. Below you will find a sample motion and press release, along with the LGA press release from the Lib Dem Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, Cllr Jeremy Hilton – which has been supported by all political groups.

 

Draft Local Press Release:

HANDS OFF THE FIRE SERVICE SAY [Local] LIB DEMS

Government plans which could put the county’s fire and rescue service under the direct control of the Police and Crime Commissioner must be opposed, say [OUR AREA’S] Liberal Democrats.

New proposals from the Government would allow politically elected Police and Crime Commissioners to take over fire authorities or place their own representative on the existing fire authority.

[OUR AREA’s] Liberal Democrats are calling on [RELEVANT LOCAL AUTHORITY] to oppose the planned changes, citing the partnership [OUR AREA’s] Fire and Rescue Service already has with [INSERT NAMES OF OTHER LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES HERE]

Lib Dem [NAME], said:” We fear this is another back door attempt to strip fire services of any local accountability or control. The jury is already out on whether Police and Crime Commissioners have had any beneficial results – why would you hand them the fire service as well?

“Currently, the fire authority for [OUR AREA] is made up of representatives appointed by [INSERT NAMES OF COUNTIES AND/OR RELEVANT UNITARY AUTHORITIES HERE]

“It gives local accountability and ensures decisions are made openly and for the whole community,” added [NAME]. “Over the last decade, firefighters have shown just how effective they can be by halving the numbers of fires across the country through both their swift responses to emergencies and fantastic fire prevention work. Why fix something that isn’t broken?”

Lib Dems are calling on [RELEVANT LOCAL AUTHORITY] to respond to the Government’s consultation and oppose the transfer of control for the fire service to a single elected commissioner.

“It will only add yet more confusion if the Government forces through this change”, said [NAME].

[WHERE RELEVANT]: “Across [OUR AREA/REGION] we have different police and crime commissioners with different boundaries for the fire services. This government plan is a recipe for chaos”

 

Draft Council Motion:

Council notes:

  • TheGovernment’s public consultation on the future management of the nation’s fire and rescue services which contains proposals include permitting Police and Crime Commissioners to take over the running of fire and rescue services;
  • That the cross party Local Government Association has described these plans as “unnecessary, unhelpful and restrictive”.

Council recognises that the [OUR AREA’s] Fire and Rescue Service is highly regarded by the communities it serves across [OUR AREA], with local accountability through the fire authority;

Council calls on:

[OUR COUNCIL] to respond to the consultation in the strongest possible terms opposing politicisation of the fire service by transferring control to politically elected Police and Crime Commissioners.

 

LGA Press Release (Note – this has cross party support – Jeremy Hilton is its Lib Dem Chair)

Plans to give police more control of firefighters are “unnecessary and unhelpful”, say fire chiefs

New plans to give police more control of firefighters are “unnecessary, unhelpful and restrictive” and could jeopardise invaluable community work, fire chiefs warn.

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) currently oversee the work of police forces while separate bodies made up of councillors, called Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs), oversee firefighters. The Government is consulting on allowing PCCs to take over control of firefighters, replacing FRAs.

In a detailed response to this consultation, the LGA, which represents all 46 fire authorities in England, says firefighters carry out almost annual 700,000 home safety visits. Firefighters are working with a range of health partners and schools to prevent poor health, reduce the pressure on the NHS now and in the future, save money and improve lives. For example, they have been fitting cold alarms to prevent vulnerable older people living on their own from being hospitalised during cold weather, and also teaching children the importance of a healthy lifestyle to tackle obesity.

The transfer of power to PCCs would divert valuable resources away from this community work to having to make businesses cases for the changes.

FRAs also say the introduction of a new statutory duty on all three emergency services to work together is unnecessary. This collaboration is already taking place: for example, firefighters jointly respond to many incidents with the ambulance service – such as the A27 air crash in August when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said:

“Firefighters visit almost 700,000 households for home safety visits each year – and that is 700,000 opportunities to do more for their local communities and an opportunity not to be overlooked by government.

“Firefighters are already achieving so much and we do not want to hinder this with unhelpful, unnecessary and restrictive legislation. The fire service is not a failing service and does not need to be messed around with.

“The next Spending Review could make a real impact on the Fire and Rescue Authorities’ ability to prevent, protect and respond more effectively and government needs to carefully consider their role.

“There is huge potential for firefighters to play a wider and more important role in their communities.

“Firefighters have proven just how effective they can be by halving the numbers of fires over the last decade through both their swift responses to emergencies and their fantastic prevention work.

“Through their work to build healthy, safe and resilient communities, firefighters can make a major contribution to the Government’s overall ambition for a healthier, more secure society.”

ENDS

 

The LGA response to the consultation over closer working between the emergency services can be found here: http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/11309/151105+LGA+Response+to+the+Consultation+on+Enabling+Closer+Working+between+the+Emergency+Services/7d7976d9-3909-4510-957f-f6ad9be8696f

ALDC