There is a government consultation on closer working between 'blue light' services
Contained within it is the possibility that the Police and Crime commissioner takes over the Avon Fire Service.
This is the response from myself and Gus Hoyt.....
This response comes from Councillors Charlie Bolton and Gus Hoyt, serving as Green Party members on the Avon Fire Authority, and also as councillors on Bristol City Council.
As Greens we are appalled at the cuts which have been and are still being implemented on the Fire service. The Fire service saves lives, is highly regarded and we believe has been under sustained, ideologically motivated attack. We believe that the government should commit now to halting cuts to this valued and vital service. We further believe that the Fire Service, along with Police needs to be properly funded.
As Green Party members of the Avon Fire Authority, we register our opposition to the possibility of a merger of the authority with the Police Authority.
We support many of the reasons given by the Avon Fire Authority in its submission also opposing the possibility of a merger, namely:
- Existing governance arrangements work well
- Boundaries between the authorities do not match
- There will be difficulties aligning council tax amounts
- There are differing electoral arrangements in place over the area
- There is already some effective collaborative working between authorities, however the proposal will make it harder to form other working partnerships
- Practical issues merging back office functions which are in different arrangements (ie outsourced or not) with different contractual arrangements
- Practical staffing issues re TUPE
In addition to these, we believe that combining the authorities would also require a significant beefing up of scrutiny functions to meet any new organisation (unless the intention is to dispense with such democratic oversite).
We further draw to the your attention to the fact that there are many examples of attempts to merge systems, computerised or other – which intend to make economies of scale – end up either failing completely, or result in a more complex (and costly) solution. We further point out to those suggesting ‘private sector management methods’ that HBOS and RBS were private businesses, using such techniques - who failed in spectacular fashion. In other words, there are big dangers as well as opportunities.
We point out that merging organisations can frequently lead to additional bureaucracy, and which in itself leads to inefficiencies. One of the benefits of the current organisation of the Fire Authority is its relatively simple structure which allows it to concentrate on its ‘core business’ of keeping people safe and putting out fires. A merger could jeopardise this.
Finally, we – as Greens – support decentralisation of power to the lowest level. A merger, and in particular, a merger of the power structure represents a centralisation of power which we oppose.