Councillors representing a number of council-run fire authorities from across England met recently in Gloucestershire to discuss the proposals for police and crime commissioners taking over control of fire and rescue services, which are contained in the Policing and Crime Bill currently before parliament.
There are currently two main types of fire and rescue services in the UK – stand-alone fire authorities and council-run fire authorities. Stand-alone authorities typically cover an area consisting of several local councils, are governed by councillors appointed from those councils, and levy their own council tax on households in their area. Council-run fire authorities are integral parts of an individual council, governed as any other council service, and do not charge separate council tax bills. Of England’s 47 fire authorities, 14 are council-run.
The Policing and Crime Bill, if enacted, would give the PCC the power to take over control of fire and rescue services, following consideration of a business case. The meeting agreed to commission research, which will be funded by Gloucestershire County Council, investigating the costs such mergers could pose to all concerned.
Councillor Nigel Moor, Gloucestershire County council cabinet member for fire, organised the meeting. He commented: “Stand-alone fire authorities have their own taxraising powers, and may have potential for saving money through joining up back office services with the police. Council run fire authorities are different – most have already made savings by joining up the fire service with the council as a whole.
“In Gloucestershire, for example, our chief fire officer also runs our IT, our trading standards, and our emergency planning departments, as well as the fire and rescue service. That’s how we’ve been able to consistently remain one of the most efficient fire services in the country. This research will look more closely at this issue, and at the possible impact any changes could have, on councils, fire services and the police. Hopefully it’s something that ministers will look at closely, and which will help inform decision-making.”