Council sets out opposition to fire and rescue service takeover bid
The county council has today sent the Home Secretary a comprehensive case opposing the PCC’s proposed takeover of the county’s fire and rescue service.
The council is opposing the PCC’s proposals on the grounds that it will impact public safety, reduce the level of funding available to the service and minimise public scrutiny of decisions:
- The proposals will not save money, in fact it could cost taxpayers as much as £15.7m - money that would have to be a found from tax increases, or cuts to other vital services
- There are no identified improvements in public safety
- Cutting senior firefighters would risk public safety
- Under the proposal, future decisions about Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) would be taken in private, with no public scrutiny
- The proposals would jeopardise Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service's partnership with the county council and the NHS, which currently helps protect some of the most vulnerable people in Gloucestershire
The county council was also so concerned about the approach to consultation taken by the PCC and the conclusions drawn from that consultation, that it commissioned an independent review by the respected lead UK advisor, the Consultation Institute (tCI). The Consultation Institute found the process seriously wanting in a number of ways, including:
- The introductory section appears overtly positive and is designed to communicate the benefits of changing to the new governance model, rather than offering a more balanced perspective of the model
- The various models were not adequately described in terms of benefits and disadvantages
- Important information about the proposals was not included or incorrectly described in the online introduction
- Criticism of ‘selective reporting’ of the public survey data, which is not consistent with the more detailed findings in the supporting documentation, and the conflation of survey data collected from online and on-street surveys to represent the overall view of the public, an approach which “is not consistent with accepted market research and data analysis practice.” Similarly, the PCC’s analysis selectively removed ‘not sure’ respondents from the survey findings, also poor practice
- The way this data is currently presented does not allow the reader to understand that in the on-street survey, there was a more negative response to the proposals than in the online survey
- The concluding section of the PCC case does not address any of the issues and concerns raised, nor suggest how the PCC has considered each of these issues, which suggests that consideration of the contentious findings may not have been undertaken
Cllr Dave Norman, Cabinet Member for Public Protection at Gloucestershire County Council said: “The county council has successfully run the fire and rescue service for more than 40 years. In that time, council investment has ensured it is a modern service, effectively meeting the needs of the county’s residents. That investment has ensured firefighters have the most up-to-date equipment, training and facilities to enable them to work safely and meet the challenges they face.
“We have a strong track record of collaborative working and an unwavering commitment to delivering more with partners in the future, ensuring we deliver the best, most effective service possible for the people of Gloucestershire. We simply don’t need a governance change to achieve this though.
“GFRS is the second most cost effective service in the country, at the same time as cutting fires by more than the national average in the last decade – and cutting casualties in dwelling fires by a third more than the national average in the last eight years.”