THE Fire Brigades Union set alight government plans yesterday to hand control of Britain’s fire services to the police.
The government wants to transfer control of fire services to police and crime commissioners (PCCs), removing control from fire authorities which are made up of councillors from local authorities.
The union warned that removing the fire services from democratically accountable control would put public safety at risk and jeopardise the trust and respect in which firefighters are held.
It wrote to the Home Office yesterday expressing its opposition to the proposals.
Warnings to the government included that the move will “disrupt industrial relations” and that PCCs have “no place” in the fire and rescue service or have any mandate to run such services.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters provide a humanitarian service and this just does not mix with law enforcement.
“Firefighters rely heavily on public trust in order to gain access to their homes, not just to extinguish fires but for all the safety checks they do, the fitting of smoke alarms and other work in the community such as keeping an eye on vulnerable people and the elderly.”
He warned that if PCCs are allowed to take over the running of the fire and rescue service there is “no doubt” that public safety will be “put severely at risk.”
Mr Wrack said: “PCCs may hope for a share in the popularity firefighters enjoy with the public, but neither firefighters nor the public will benefit from this association with law enforcement.
“We have already had cases where firefighters were asked to pitch in and help with evictions — this is simply not their role.
To be linked with police in this way will be extremely damaging.
“The two cultures are completely different.”
The FBU leader added that the PCC mode of governance is “significantly less democratic” than the current fire authority model.