County council leaders have welcomed the Government’s decision not to remove local fire services from the oversight of upper-tier local authorities.
Earlier proposals for fire service reform had included an ambition for Police and Crime Commissioners or combined authority mayors to oversee local fire services rather than county councils.
However, the Government’s Fire Reform White Paper, published yesterday, stipulated that such a transfer of services would not be mandatory.
‘It is for each commissioner to determine whether they want responsibility for fire,’ the white paper states.
‘If so, they need to produce a proposal for the Home Secretary that demonstrates how a governance transfer meets the statutory tests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, and that it does not have a detrimental impact on public safety.’
Responding to the white paper, Cllr Tim Oliver, chairman of the County Councils Network, said: ‘We are pleased that today’s white paper does not make that transfer mandatory, and instead sets a wider set of potential governance options, as the County Councils Network (CCN) has called for.
‘The proposals are rightly based on local discretion, albeit, with a clear preference for governance models with a single elected individual having responsibility for the service. We are pleased that one option remains the leader or cabinet member of the upper-tier authority having responsibility and ensuring fire and rescue remains integrated with the county or unitary authority.
‘This is welcome, and a recognition of the strong track record local government has in effectively overseeing local fire services, including driving substantial transformations to ensure they are fit for the 21st century and embedding fire services within councils’ wider community safety remit.’