Union says links to police will ‘damage reputation of fire service’, as police commissioner’s powers set to increase in Northamptonshire

Proposals that would see Northamptonshire’s police commissioner in charge of the county’s firefighters will damage the reputation of the fire service, a union says.

Prime Minister David Cameron said today Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will be in ultimate control of fire and rescue services across the country.

But the FBU called the move undemocratic - alluding to the fact the commissioners were voted in based on suitability for managing local police forces - and said the move will result in “chaos” for emergency services, which have experienced sizeable cuts recently.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Police are law enforcers, while fire and rescue is a humanitarian service with a very different remit and culture. Firefighters need to be seen to be neutral within the communities they serve.

“Links with law enforcers will damage the much needed trust and reputation firefighters have built up in neighbourhoods over decades, trust they depend on to gain access to peoples’ homes when needed for fire prevention and rescue work.

“Fire and rescue services need independence to do their job professionally. We will challenge these proposals and appeal to local politicians to do the same.”

In 2013, Northamptonshire fire and rescue service’s senior management team moved into Wootton Hall Park.

Shortly afterwards, the county’s first co-located police and fire station opened in Thrapston.

Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said he welcomed today’s news.

He said: “My ambition in bringing the two services together was to provide a better standard of service to the communities both these organisations serve.

“That is the role of a PCC, to get better value for money and bring partners together where it makes sense to do so and we have demonstrated the value in further developing arrangements like these, between the emergency services.

“At present, legislation prevents this from happening and I welcome the Government consulting on proposals that will allow PCCs to have more control of the emergency services in their locality in the future.”

Adrian Davis, interim head of service for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We have demonstrated that we can adapt to changing demand amongst the emergency services. We have done a great job in managing down demand for our service over the last decade and we now work more closely than ever with both the police and East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).”

“It is encouraging that the Government is taking steps that will give clear leadership and clarity that help to support the arrangements that we have been pursuing locally.”