UNISON challenges police commissioner takeover of fire services

Concern for support staff jobs as cost-cutting drives government agenda

UNISON has criticised the decision to allow police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to take over the governance of fire and rescue services, which the union calls “a veiled attack” on members’ jobs and services.

The Home Office has given approval for the PCCs for West Mercia, Staffordshire and Cambridgeshire to take over their local fire and rescue services, after independent assessors scrutinised their proposals.

These proposals were founded on ‘back room efficiencies’, with the aim of cutting jobs by merging functions, as fire and rescue staff move into police headquarters.

UNISON understands that the jobs likely to be lost are in finance, HR, IT, supplies, communications, and learning and development – all from fire services. At least 68 jobs are at risk in Staffordshire alone.

The union has also drawn attention to the fact that the independent assessors, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, did not give these proposals clear approval.

In each case the institute found “no overwhelming case” for governance.

And in giving the go-ahead, the government has ignored the views of the fire authorities, local councils and the majority of fire and rescue staff, who are against the changes.

UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “The recent announcement for three police and crime commissioners to take over fire and rescue services is a veiled attack on our members jobs, and the vital work they do as support staff to ensure the smooth running of the fire services.

“UNISON is completely opposed to these takeovers, which compromise both public safety and the jobs of many hard working public servants.”

The union’s police and fire branches in the areas concerned have agreed to work together to campaign against the mergers.