The changes will mean that:
- Ministerial responsibility for Fire will transfer immediately to Mike Penning, Minister of State at the Home Office and Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice.
- As of 1 April 2016 the group of staff working on the national fire policy function will transfer to the Home Office. This group comprises Fire Policy Division, National Resilience and Fire Programmes Division, the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor’s team and staff working on Firefighter Pensions.
- Melanie Dawes, the DCLG Permanent Secretary will remain Accounting Officer for fire budgets until 1 April when Mark Sedwill, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, will take over this role.
The changes are part of ongoing Government plans to encourage closer collaboration between Fire and Rescue services and the Police.
A consultation on collaboration between emergency services was carried out earlier this year, the responses of which are currently being reviewed.
The new Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, said: “As a former firefighter and now Minister for Policing, I know from first-hand experience how well the police and fire service can work together.
“We believe that better joint working can strengthen the emergency services and deliver significant savings and benefits for the public. This is about smarter working, reducing the cost of back office functions and freeing up the time of front-line staff.”
Dave Smith, FIA Export Manager and Secretary to FIRESA Council, comments on the news
“Given recent pronouncements by the Home Secretary Teresa May and moves to enable Fire and Rescue to come under the control ultimately of Police and Crime Commissioners, news that government responsibility for Fire is to transfer to the Home Office under Minister of State Mike Penning comes as little surprise within the sector.
“Whether it is the right course of action is open to debate. While CFOA has cautiously welcomed the development, it recognises the need for greater clarity in its intended outcomes while others such as the FBU and some Fire Authorities openly oppose the plans. We are already observing significant collaboration between the Fire and Police Services in many parts of the country which many would prefer to remain based on local decisions rather than seeing a joint governance structure being imposed. Also, the point has been well made that in terms of front-line activity, the Fire and Rescue Services have greater affinity with the Ambulance rather than Police Service.
“Of course, the Fire Service was previously under Home Office control [it was moved out of that Department in 2001] and so its return is not itself the primary issue here. The question is rather to what extent the Fire and Police functions will be merged given government’s clear aspirations and whether the aim, in the Minister’s words, to ‘deliver significant savings’ really does ‘strengthen the emergency services’ and offer ‘benefits to the public’.”