Police and Fire Services 'different' - we must not change status quo just to cut costs

07 January 2016

“Police and fire services each have their own, professional specialisms – and we must not merge the services or change things purely as a cost-cutting exercise.”

That was the message from Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, in response to the Home Office announcement that it is taking control of fire and rescue policy in England.

The Home Office said the move would allow a ‘radical transformation’ of how the police, fire and rescue services would co-operate.  A few months ago a government consultation – Enabling Closer Working Between the Emergency Services – also unveiled plans to remove existing legal barriers, to allow PCCs to take control of fire services in their area.

But Mr White urged caution and said: “Officers from both emergency services already do pull together, working alongside week in, week out, as has been evidenced most recently by the appalling floods.

“But while joined-up emergency services are vital in many crisis situations, we vehemently oppose the prospect of police routinely fighting fires or fire personnel pounding the beat.

“We’ll obviously be talking to our own members and our colleagues in the fire service about areas where greater collaboration could make sense. If implemented correctly, police and fire sharing best practices and workplace reform could improve and strengthen both services. Scenarios like sharing back office functions, garages and control rooms, for example.

“But Government needs to realise that if done haphazardly, it would be a recipe for disaster. We already have concerns because the changes to governance apply only to England – yet we are the Police Federation of England and Wales, so there may be disparities there. “

Mr White said that different governance structures, roles and responsibilities across England could potentially result in competing models of policing, fire and rescue throughout England and Wales.

For example, there are 39 police forces in England, but over 50 fire and rescue services in the UK; so the current areas covered by services differ, and this alone would mean restructuring is already required if certain structures are merged.

“The services that all the emergency services provide can mean the difference between life and death,” added Mr White. “That’s why it is vital that any change is properly thought out. Failure is not an option.”