Government announces emergency services in England will have a new duty to collaborate

Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice & Victims.

Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice & Victims.

Blue light services in England will have a new duty to work together under new legislation announced by the Government today. Following a public consultation, the Government will take forward the legislation, which is part of a raft of changes outlined in the Government’s response to the consultation ‘Enabling closer working between the emergency services’, published on 26 January.

Legislation will also enable Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to hold their local fire and rescue services to account. It means PCCs could potentially create a single employer for both police and fire personnel if they are able to demonstrate a clear business case for doing so.

Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, said, “As a former firefighter and now Minister for Policing and Fire, I know from first-hand experience how well the police and fire and rescue service can work together. We believe that better joint working can strengthen the emergency services, deliver significant savings and produce benefits for the public.

“Strong leadership will be required to drive greater efficiencies and improved outcomes. Directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners are clearly accountable to the public and have a strong incentive to pursue ambitious reform and deliver value for money. We will enable them to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made.

“This is about smarter working. It simply doesn’t make sense for emergency services to have different premises, different back offices and different IT systems when their work is so closely related and they often share the same boundaries.

“The Government has already invested over £80m in collaboration projects and local areas have shown the benefits of joint working between the emergency services – but there is more to be done and this legislation will enable that.”

The public consultation, jointly produced by the Home Office, Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health in September 2015, sought views on a range of proposals to enable greater collaboration between the emergency services.

Over 300 responses were received from national, local and regional organisations, police forces, PCCs, fire and rescue authorities, local councils, ambulance trusts, frontline practitioners, associations and other interested groups and individuals. Having carefully considered all the consultation responses, the Government will legislate to: introduce a statutory duty to collaborate on all three emergency services, to improve their efficiency or effectiveness; enable PCCs to take on the functions and duties of fire and rescue authorities, where a local case is made; further enable PCCs to create a single employer for police and fire personnel where they take on the responsibilities of their local fire and rescue service, and where a local case is made; in areas where a PCC has not become responsible for fire and rescue, enabling them to have representation on their local fire and rescue authority with voting rights, where the fire and rescue authority agrees; and abolish the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and give the Mayor of London direct responsibility for the fire and rescue service in London.

The intention is that these measures will ensure collaboration is widespread and ambitious across the country. Bringing police and fire together locally under the leadership of a PCC will provide greater direct accountability for the public and will accelerate local collaboration.