Last week the Home Secretary unveiled a ‘radical and ambitious’ programme of reform for fire and rescue services across England.
Home Secretary Teresa May said she wants to make fire and rescue more accountable, more effective and more professional than ever before.
Proposals in the Policing and Crime Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, would place a duty for all three emergency services to collaborate. The Bill could also mean that Police and Crime Commissioners could take on responsibility for the fire and rescue service in the future.
At present local councillors oversee policy and service delivery for the fire service. In East Sussex Fire Authority is made up of 12 councillors nominated by East Sussex County Council and six from Brighton & Hove City Council. Whereas the fire service in West Sussex is embedded into the organisational structure of the County Council.
Whereas there is a single police force for the whole of Sussex, there are two separate fire services, one for East Sussex and Brighton & Hove and another for West Sussex. Since May 2014 however, emergency calls to the first service across the whole of Sussex are now received by staff in a joint Control Centre at Haywards Heath fire station.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, has written to the Leader of WSCC Louise Goldsmith and Phil Howson, Chairman of East Sussex Fire Authority, to request they begin to look at the feasibility of bringing both fire services under her authority. Speaking on BBC Sussex this morning she said:
The Home Secretary was quite clear, several times last week, in saying how Police and Crime Commissioners have brought greater transparentcy and accountabily to police services, because you have one directly elected person who sets the strageic priorities, who holds the police to account. And then if the public don’t like the direction in which they take policing, they have the opportunity to vote for somebody else at the ballot box and change that.
At the moment with the fire authorities, and we have two different models in Sussex, so you have got disrepency in service there, it’s delivered differently depending on your postcode. At the moment you don’t have, as a member of the public, that direct opportunity to change the strategic priorities for fire and rescue service as you do for policing.
Just as we have one police force that effectively manages our county, this piece of work that we are beginning, will look at whether that is feasilble for one fire service as well, because we have this increased duty to collaborate under the new Bill.
You can listen to the full interview on the iPlayer – the interview with Katy Bourne starts at 02:28:02.