Kahina Bouhassane defends fire services against threat to transfer control away from local councillors

Kahina Bouhassane, Green Party candidate for Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, has added her voice to those raising concerns over ongoing Home Office pressure to place fire services under the control of Policing and Crime Commissioners.

The Home Office is increasing pressure up and down the country for local fire and rescue services to come under the control of Policing and Crime Commissioners (PCC). This would take oversight away from local councillors, and give the PCCs the ability to hire and sack staff. 

Fire services – currently steered by Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) made up of elected councillors – are responsible for almost 700,000 annual home safety visits to vulnerable older people living on their own. This preventative measure is partly praised for helping reduce pressure on the NHS.

Under proposals being pushed by the Home Office, these fire and rescue services would be transferred to bodies set up to oversee the police. 

These moves have been criticised by the Local Government Authority (LGA) who said that the move would “divert valuable resources” away from the community work carried out by fire services. The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also opposes the proposals, highlighting that they could “open the door to privatisation of the service.

The Green Party has long opposed this move as they represent further erosion of support for our critical public services. After a decade of underfunding, these cuts threaten to put lives at risk.

Kahina Bouhassane, Green Party candidate for Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said:

“This is a transparent case of the Home Office trying to seize back control of local fire services. At the moment local elected councillors work closely with firefighters in supporting their work in the community, which has been incredibly effective in promoting fire prevention. Giving in to Home Office pressure would not only undermine this vital work, but would also undermine ongoing collaborations between fire services and local NHS services.”

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen Fire Services rally to the assistance of ambulance crews up and down the country and play a crucial role in the emergency response to the COVID crisis. As we enter into a phase of collective recovery, it is clear that this is not the time to make fundamental changes to our emergency services.”

Kahina continued:

“Fire services and the police play different roles in ensuring public safety. Every day these services demonstrate how effective they already are in working together. Trying to merge them together threatens the very independence that is so important to the work of firefighters, and threatens to erode the trust that the public has in the service.”

Kahina concluded:

“Despite the Tory cuts to fire services up and down the country, our firefighters remain dedicated to their courageous and essential work. When fire services are already achieving so much, and already collaborate so closely with the police and ambulance services, it seems astonishing that the government would choose this moment for unnecessary meddling and reorganisation. It is simply another example of the Home Office prioritising their budgets over concerns of public safety.”

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