Law change forcing emergency services to work together is a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’

26 January 2016

Emergency Light

Changing the law to force police and fire services to work together is heavy-handed and unnecessary, said Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

He was speaking after the Home Office announced it is going to draw up new legislation allowing PCCs to take responsibility for their local fire service. Under the plans there would also be a new statutory duty to collaborate placed on all three emergency services.

Steve White 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. So why the burning need to change the law?

“It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. And 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.”

He said the services already shared premises and resources in some areas and there was scope for greater collaboration where it made 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 he warned: “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.”

Mr White also had concerns because the new law will apply only to England.

“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 for that reason a piecemeal approach will not work. This alone would mean restructuring is already required if certain structures are merged.

“Government needs to realise that if these changes are done haphazardly, it would be a recipe for disaster.”