The Home Office, Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health have today published their response to the consultation held on enabling closer collaboration between emergency services.
CFOA welcomes the confirmation that a duty to collaborate will be introduced and we will support instances where a robust local business case is made for collaboration. We will provide guidance and input to the Home Office and local services to ensure that all plans for collaboration consider the full range of issues and will produce the right outcomes for the services involved and the public they serve. CFOA has already met with the new Fire Minister and officials from the Home Office to discuss the advice and guidance that the Association can offer as the department seeks to implement its reform agenda.
Fire and rescue services already work closely with colleagues from the emergency services – for example over a third of UK FRS are already co-responding with ambulance colleagues – and we will take steps to ensure this best practice is recognised, shared and replicated where possible. Shared control centres already exist in many parts of the country, both with other police and ambulance colleagues and between fire and rescue services, which has already provided significant efficiencies.
CFOA is pleased that the government will be maintaining the principle of local determination over governance changes, and we are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. CFOA strongly believes that fire and rescue services can exploit our fantastic record in prevention and enviable public support to deliver a wide range of better social outcomes. We are pleased to see that the government “will encourage wider involvement in collaboration by other bodies such as local government, health bodies or the voluntary sector.”
There is scope for further collaboration between emergency services to ensure effective local and by extension national resilience, building on existing good work through JESIP and elsewhere. We are pleased that two of the three emergency services are now within one government department, which should facilitate closer working at a central government level. However, the government will have to consider the impact of ongoing funding cuts on fire service capacity to deliver local and national resilience, especially at a time when both Police and Ambulance have seen their budgets protected.
We are pleased that the government has reiterated that police and fire services will remain operationally distinct.
There remain some areas for further consideration, such as financial model that would be put in place where PCCs do take over, and the potential implications of allowing a joint “Chief Officer” to designate certain police powers to their fire personnel. The Government also intends to consider further how assurance and assessment can be improved, building on the Peer Review system and the potential for the reintroduction of an inspectorate for fire in some form. CFOA will work with the Home Office and our police and ambulance colleagues to consider all these issues and others in more detail.
Paul Hancock, CFOA President said;
“CFOA will work with the Home Office to help them implement their reform agenda to ensure it produces the most benefit for the fire and rescue service and the public we serve. The UK Fire and Rescue Service is a world class emergency service with a distinct brand and reputation, but there are opportunities for closer working with colleagues in the police, ambulance and beyond.”
“CFOA remain committed to a locally determined approach to the future of the fire and rescue service, and believe that local people and partners should support any proposed collaboration. It will also be important to consider how ongoing funding reductions might impact on services and their capacity to deliver an ambitious reform agenda.”
CFOA President Paul Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Today programme this morning to discuss this issue with the Sir Ken Knight, author of the “Facing the Future” report in 2013. You can hear Paul and Sir Ken from around 1 hr 30 min.
CFOA’s initial response to the consultation can be found here.