Mike Penning 180Responsibility for fire and rescue policy has moved from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office in a move which CFOA believes offers an "opportunity to improve co-ordination in areas such as national resilience, interoperability and operational response".

Prime Minister David Cameron expects the move to support a radical transformation of how the police and fire and rescue services work together with Mike Penning assuming responsibility for the portfolio becoming Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims.

Commenting on his newly expanded role, Penning said: "As a former firefighter and now Minister for Policing, I know from first-hand experience how well the police and fire service can work together. We believe that better joint working can strengthen the emergency services and deliver significant savings and benefits for the public. This is about smarter working, reducing the cost of back office functions and freeing up the time of front-line staff.

"We are demonstrating at national level what we are asking emergency services to do at local level. As the Minister responsible for both fire and policing, I will be looking to ensure that both services learn from best practice, wherever it is found. This move will have benefits for both services. Fire authorities can learn from the journey that police forces have undertaken on reform over the last five years. Equally, the success of fire and rescue services in prevention holds important lessons for the police."

The Government recently consulted on proposals to enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take on greater responsibility for fire services at local level and the Home Office suggested that the response across the country to recent flooding showed "how well the police and fire service already worked together".

The new strategy could lead to arrangements such as sharing back office functions although the government insists they will remain operationally independent.

While CFOA maintain their position that decisions on mergers between fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners should be determined at a local level, and President Paul Hancock says "we will continue to promote closer collaboration between police and fire where appropriate and for the benefit of the communities we serve.

"However, it is equally important that we continue to promote closer collaboration between fire and rescue services and partners in other emergency services, health, local government and the third sector where that provides positive outcomes and opportunities to improve the safety, health and well-being of the communities we serve," he added.

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