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Emergency services will be forced to integrate – Cameron

Radical transformation proposals to integrate police, fire and rescue and ambulance services were detailed by prime minister David Cameron today (11 September).

Measures included in a consultation paper published today, set to run until 23 October, seek to overhaul how the ‘blue light’ services work by encouraging tight collaboration.

Cameron said in a speech delivered ahead of the Spending Review that current emergency services all have different premises, back offices, IT policies and systems, and procurement policies – despite their work “being closely related”.

He added: “So I can announced today that we will introduce reforms that will enable the police, fire and ambulance services to work more closely together to save money and improve their effectiveness.”

Changes will include a new statutory duty on all three emergency services to identify collaborative opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will also be able to take on duties of fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) where a local case is made.

A PCC will be able to be represented on their local FRA in locations where they do not take on the responsibility for fire and rescue services.

Minister for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims, Mike Penning MP, said: “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.

“Directly elected PCCs are accountable to the people they serve and uniquely placed to improve the way the emergency services are delivered at a local level, and we propose enabling them to take responsibility for the fire and rescue service where a local case is made.

“I know from first-hand experience how well the police and fire service can work together. This is about smarter working, reducing the cost of back office functions and freeing up the time of frontline staff.”

Plans have also been put forth to abolish the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority in views to devolve direct powers over the fire and rescue service to the London mayor, Boris Johnson. This will be extended to Manchester once a new mayor is elected under devolution negotiations.

Minister for communities and resilience, Mark Francois MP, said: “With the number of fires continuing to fall each year, locally-led collaboration across blue light services can benefit everyone by freeing up frontline staff, investing in prevention programmes and allowing for faster response times when incidents do occur.

“We want to remove any bureaucratic barriers to joint working and allow local leaders to make the arrangements that work best for them.”

These measures will also seek to improve joint working between PCCs and NHS ambulance foundation trusts by encouraging the latter to consider PCC representation on their council of governors.

As each NHS ambulance trust covers more than one police force area, the government is proposing to allow flexibility and let PCCs decide with their respective trusts what representation works best.

(Top image c. British Transport Police)


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