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 the consultation, the LGA, which represents all 46 fire authorities in England, says firefighters carry out almost 700,000 annual 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.
Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said:
"Firefighters make almost 700,000 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.”
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.
Read the full LGA response at: 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