Following the formal announcement this evening that fire and rescue services will be transferred to the Home Office from the Department of Communities and Local Government, The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) makes the following statement:
CFOA is supportive of emergency service collaboration and views the transfer of responsibility for fire and rescue services to the Home Office as an opportunity to improve co-ordination in areas such as national resilience, interoperability and operational response. This builds on the extensive collaboration that already exists, particularly at local level. The organisation of government departments and ministerial responsibilities are matters for the Prime Minister, but we are pleased that fire and rescue will remain a ministerial responsibility with suitable representation, and look forward to working with the Rt Hon Mike Penning MP and meeting with him in the near future.
However, as the transfer takes place over the coming months, CFOA will seek clarity about the arrangements for a range of matters, including transitioning policy, funding and provision to meet national and local emergencies. CFOA will seek assurance that fire and rescue service funding will be sustainable, consider in-depth UK national risks as a whole, and remain distinct from police and other Home Office budgets.
It is vital that National Resilience arrangements, including the Fire and Rescue Service National Coordination Centre, be maintained within the Home Office as they have been within DCLG. These resources and their supporting arrangements have proved their worth again and again, not least in the recent flooding in the North of England.
We are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS, ambulance services and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. We want to ensure continuing government support for existing collaborations, prevention activity and future opportunities for cooperation with a wide range of partners including, but not limited to, police services. In particular, and in line with our previously stated position, we believe decisions on mergers between fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners should be determined at a local level, based on a robust business case, and that fire and rescue services retain the important link with local government.
We will work with our colleagues in both DCLG and the Home Office to ensure the transition is smooth and effective, with minimal adverse impact on the provision of fire and rescue services. CFOA will continue to provide professional advice and guidance to the government on the future of governance and structural fire and rescue service reform and debates around the future of UK civil contingency.
CFOA President Paul Hancock said:
“We will continue to promote closer collaboration between police and fire where appropriate and for the benefit of the communities we serve. However, it is equally important that we continue to promote closer collaboration between fire and rescue services and partners in other emergency services, health, local government and the third sector where that provides positive outcomes and opportunities to improve the safety, health and well-being of the communities we serve.”