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Union sets out opposition to fire authority takeover by PCC

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has denounced a bid by Cumbria’s Conservative police and crime commissioner Peter McCall to take over the fire service, and has made a complaint to the county monitoring officer.

Section 4A of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 provides that the Secretary of State can make an order making a PCC a fire rescue authority if this is in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

Two fire authorities in 2019 lost a legal bid to stop the Home Secretary using this power to allow them to be taken over by their commissioners.

The FBU said Mr McCall had “refused to respond to a letter from the local Fire Brigades Union on his beleaguered and controversial attempt to take over the fire and rescue service”.

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It added it had made a formal complaint to Cumbria County Council’s monitoring officer. This alleges the commissioner had “not acted with honesty, integrity, accountability, openness, and having respect for others”.

Les Skarratts, FBU executive council member for the north west, said: “Peter McCall must surely know that the game is up, and this refusal to even respond to a letter from firefighters’ representatives only confirms that.

“Having lost a consultation on his own plans he’s running scared and has shut up shop.”

The FBU argued the fire service would be better able to protect its budget if outside of the commissioner’s grasp and within its own authority.

Mr McCall said: “The decision about the potential transfer of fire governance to the police and crime commissioner is with the Home Secretary.

“As soon as we have received the decision from the Home Secretary we will be responding. I have said many times previously that I have no intention of playing party politics with the FBU or indeed anyone else.”

A further complication is that Cumbria County Council is due to be abolished next May and replaced by two unitary councils - one will cover Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland and the other Barrow-in-Furness, Eden and South Lakeland.

Mark Smulian

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