With immediate effect, responsibility for fire and rescue policy has transferred from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office.
Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that ministerial responsibility for fire and rescue policy moves to the Home Office from the Department for Communities and Local Government in order to support a “radical transformation” of how the police service and Fire and Rescue Services work together. Mike Penning will assume responsibility for the portfolio, becoming Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims.
The move delivers on the Conservative Government’s Manifesto commitment to realise greater joint working between the police service and the fire service, paving the way for improvements in local fire and policing provision by providing clear leadership, supporting greater collaboration and delivering value for money for the taxpayer. It will also allow the Government to share good practice more effectively on areas such as procurement and fire prevention.
The Government recently consulted on proposals looking to enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take on greater responsibility for fire services at the local level.
The response across the country to recent flooding shows how well the police and fire services already work together to protect the public and support local communities. In times of crisis, of course, the two services co-operate closely when it comes to operations. That’s also the case, though, on a more routine basis.
Successful collaboration evidenced
According to the Government, there are already several excellent examples of successful collaboration between police forces and fire services across the country:
- In Northamptonshire, a joint collaboration programme includes the sharing of training, premises and a joint operations team across the three Emergency Services. This is expected to contribute to police service savings of £21 million as well as £2 million worth of savings for the fire service over four years
- In Durham, Tri-Service Community Safety Responders have been trained to act as PCSOs, retained firefighters and community first responders (ie volunteer, on-call NHS ambulance personnel)
- In Hampshire, senior police officers now operate out of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue headquarters, saving both services something in the region of £600,000 per annum
- For their part, the Emergency Services across Surrey and Sussex are developing the Multi-Agency Information Transfer (MAIT) Programme which will create a fully-integrated joint Contact and Control Centre, amalgamating 13 Contact Centres and saving an estimated 7,500 operator hours per year
The Conservative Government feels there’s still more work to be done in order to encourage this important collaboration. Mike Penning explained: “We believe that better joint working can strengthen the Emergency Services and deliver significant savings and benefits for the public. This is really all about smarter working, reducing the cost of back office functions and freeing-up valuable time for front line staff.”
Penning continued: “In essence, we’re demonstrating at the national level what we’re asking Emergency Services to put in place at the local level. As the minister responsible for both fire and policing, I will absolutely be looking to ensure that both services learn from Best Practice wherever it’s found.”
In addition, Penning commented: “I’d like to record my admiration for the work of our Fire and Rescue Services. That work is, of course, particularly visible at times such as these, when many services are playing such a crucial role in the response to flooding across the nation, but I know the commitment and dedication of all Fire and Rescue Service staff is there day and in day out. They make communities safer places for everyone.”
Concluding his statement, Penning stressed: “This move will have benefits for both services. Fire authorities can learn from the journey that police forces have undertaken on reform over the last five years. Equally, the success of Fire and Rescue Services in prevention holds important lessons for the police.”
Ministerial responsibility changes
In parallel with this news, it has also emerged that security minister John Hayes now assumes responsibility for serious and organised crime while Karen Bradley, the Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, takes over the drug and alcohol policy areas.
“I’m pleased, proud and excited to take on this important responsibility,” enthused Hayes, “because I’m conscious that serious and organised crime destroys lives, damages communities and costs the UK at least £24 billion every year. As security minister, I know how vital it is to meet emerging threats. The scale and complexity of serious and organised crime, including financial crime such as money laundering, requires not only a law enforcement response, but also the hard work and diligence of all those in a position to counter this wickedness. I will leave no stone unturned in examining and considering all that needs to be done to support the National Crime Agency, the police service and other key agencies in cracking down on this menace.”
Karen Bradley said: “The misuse of drugs or alcohol can have a devastating impact on individuals and communities. Having taken ministerial responsibility for drugs and alcohol, I will work with everyone involved – the law enforcement agencies, charities, local authorities and industry – to ensure that we recognise new ways of tackling these problems, driving down associated crime and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.”
Bradley added: “Substance misuse drives crime, but also places a significant burden on the health and criminal justice systems. Drug misuse costs society over £10.5 billion every year, while alcohol-related harm costs society more than £21 billion per annum. It’s in all of our interests to reduce these totals.”