Police commissioner could get control over fire services ... but she doesn't want it

A North East police boss says she expects to be given control over the region’s fire brigades – but doesn’t want it to happen.

Saturday, 10th July 2021, 12:01 am
Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness
Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kim McGuinness told councillors this week that a government review could see her take on responsibility for fire and rescue services on top of her job overseeing the police force.

The move could see the Labour PCC put in charge of the two fire services on her patch – Tyne and Wear, plus Northumberland.

A handful of PCCs in England already have fire services included in their portfolios and the government will hold a review on whether to mandate the transfer of fire and rescue authority functions to all of them.

Ms McGuinness, who was re-elected in May, said “the expectation is that government likes that model” and it could be mandated before the next PCC elections in 2024, but that it “would not be my decision to do that”.

She told the Northumbria Police and Crime Panel: “I don’t think fire and police are the same or should be governed in the same way, but that seems to be the clear direction from the government.”

The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is currently governed by a fire authority, a committee made up of elected councillors from the area’s five constituent councils and Ms McGuinness.

In Northumberland, however, governance of the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is embedded within the county council.

Operational control of the fire service, though, remains with the chief fire officer – just as the chief constable retains direct responsibility for running the police, while it is a PCCs job to provide oversight and public accountability.

A Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are governed by a Fire and Rescue Authority made up of 17 publicly elected councillors from across the county including the Police and Crime Commissioner.

“We will continue to work for the communities of Tyne and Wear and if there is a review of fire and rescue service governance, we will of course engage in that process.”

Northumberland County Council was contacted for a comment.

Another change announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier this year will see Ms McGuinness mandated to appoint a deputy.