Police and Crime Commissioner's plan under fire
Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is facing a backlash from across the political divide over the possibility of extending his role to take charge of the fire service.
Clive Grunshaw, who has served as the Labour PCC for the county since 2012, is considering the move as part of a government push for greater collaboration between emergency services.
But a local Labour Party source says the idea has been met “with absolute horror” by members, who “can’t believe the PCC is pursuing it in the face of such strong opposition from his own side”.
The source claimed that Mr. Grunshaw had indicated he was not interested in the dual role when he was re-selected as the party’s PCC candidate for the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, a senior Conservative in the county says the two main parties are united in opposition to the plan. Earlier this month, Tory-controlled Wyre Council came out against any change to the status quo.
Currently, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is overseen by the Combined Fire Authority, a cross-party committee made up of members from Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council.
The government legislated last year to allow PCCs to take over the role of local fire authorities where a local case for the change could be made.
But Clive Grunshaw - along with all fellow Labour PCCs - has been sent a letter, seen by the Lancashire Post, from shadow fire minister Karen Lee MP. It reminds its recipients that “it is Labour Party policy that PCCs should not take on fire and rescue governance”.
The letter adds that the party’s position has been given “strong support by the Fire Brigades Union, our affiliated trade union”.
Clive Grunshaw declined to be interviewed on the subject, but in a statement he said: "Following new laws on emergency service collaboration and in line with other parts of the country, I commissioned an independent review of the options for the future of how the fire service is managed in Lancashire, to see if there was a more effective way that could help protect frontline services.
"The initial report found that the fire service and police already work together, but changing the governance model could deliver faster and more effective collaboration and accountability to the public.
"Following on from this I have asked for a detailed business case to be prepared, the outcome of which will be discussed with key stakeholders to decide the best way to achieve the changes that will protect frontline services."
According to the Home Office, the police and fire service would retain separate budgets under any new arrangements, but could spend money "on matters of joint benefit", such as IT projects.
To date, four PCCs in England - all Conservative - have been given government approval to take on responsibility for the fire service in their areas. It is understood that two of the proposals are subject to ongoing legal proceedings.