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FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICES ACT SETS UP FANTASY REGIONAL GOVERNMENT POWERS FOR THE ODPM

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The Fire Brigades Union says the Fire and Rescue Services Act*, given royal assent yesterday, centralises power in ...
The Fire Brigades Union says the Fire and Rescue Services Act*, given royal assent yesterday, centralises power in Whitehall while creating a structure of fantasy regional government for the fire service. The union says the Act's sensible points are overwhelmed by a series of threats against local councils, employers, unions and staff.

The union says the government is passing the buck to local councils while strengthening national and regional direction and control. It allows Whitehall the power to direct cuts and change nationally and regionally while passing responsibility for those cuts to local councils.

Councils will be forced to carry the can. But they are neither being given the power nor the funding.

Localising:

Fire authorities are responsible for the level of local services but with no national standards to underpin them;

It leaves the absurd position of having national nutritional standards for school meals but no national standards for fire cover (how many firefighters and how quickly they respond to incidents).

Centralising:

Control is exerted by guidance from the ODPM pressing for service cuts and changes while passing the buck of responsibility to local councils;

Regional management boards will be mainly appointed by the ODPM, stripping away control from local councils;

Regional emergency fire controls are planned at massive expense which will be more vulnerable to breakdown and will damage the ability to deal with major terrorist incidents;

ODPM can appoint who it likes to negotiating bodies, over-riding councillors and unions;

Independent bodies have been scrapped in favour of rubber stamping bodies, some with few individuals with any expertise of the fire service, under the direction and control of the ODPM.

FBU president Ruth Winters said: 'This is a smash and grab raid by national Government on local fire services. It's centralisation and regionalisation unperpinned by a slash and cut agenda.

'Central government grabs powers to impose its will if local councils will not implement cuts. And they have set up the levers to play fantasy regional government with the fire service.

'There is clause after clause allowing central government to impose its will on a range of issues including forced mergers of fire authorities. The government retains the power to encourage and force through cuts and change while passing responsibility to councils for those cuts and those changes.

'Regional structures are under the firm grip of Whitehall allowing them to appoint their own cronies to the boards. They talk about inclusion yet exclude anyone who disagrees with them.

'This Act could have offered so much in terms of positive change. It has been wasted as policies have been twisted to fit a cuts agenda for a frontline public service.

'We are a high performing public service. Instead of providing a way forward this takes the fire service up a dead end.'

* Fire and Rescue Services Act

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