Concern over plans to allow Police and Crime Commissioner to sit on Cleveland Fire Authority

Councillors have voiced concerns over plans which would allow the Police and Crime Commissioner to sit on Cleveland Fire Authority.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 1st August 2019, 8:48 am
Cleveland Fire Authority HQ

The practice is already in place in metropolitan and county fire authorities, but 2017 legislation from the Home Office has to be adjusted for combined fire and rescue authorities, such as Cleveland.

The new amendments would mean the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) could be appointed to the fire authority with voting rights, or be able to delegate a deputy to attend and speak, although the deputy would not have voting rights.

However the PCC does not have to sit on the fire authority and must make a request to do so, which the fire authority would then respond to.

Cleveland Fire Authority had previously voiced concerns with the Home Office over the scheme, raising how it could impact the political balance, stating ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’.

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However a statutory document for the provision has now been drafted, with Cleveland Fire Authority asked to provide any technical or legal comments against the order at its latest meeting.

Coun Marjorie James, who represents Hartlepool Borough Council, said she expects the outcome is already a ‘foregone conclusion’ but urged the importance of not allowing the PCC to sit on the fire authority.

She said: “There is a significant difference in the way the two services are delivered, so there is some real anxiety over who eventually comes to sit on a fire authority.

“It does skew the politics of things, regardless of which group they are from. That one person, in voting politically in a meeting, could carry an authority in a completely different direction.”

Coun Luke Frost, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council representative on the authority, said:

“I think the Police and Crime Commissioner has enough on his hands with what he has.

“It doesn’t matter who that Police and Crime Commissioner is, that would make a difference to the balance of the fire authority, whether it’s Labour, Conservative, Independent, it will have an impact.”

Coun Ashley Waters, from Middlesbrough Council, added he would also have ‘great concerns’ over the move.

Coun Teresa Higgins and Coun Billy Ayre, who represent Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland Councils respectively, suggested if the PCC had to sit on the authority, they should be allowed to speak but not be allowed to vote.

A representative from the Fire Brigades Union added at the meeting they opposed the Police and Crime Commissioner sitting on the authority, noting it could lead to firefighters being treated differently on the streets and ‘doors getting shut in their faces’.