All brigades will have to co-operate on a regional basis over civil contingencies, training, procurement and control rooms.
Local government minister Nick Raynsford warned that should these voluntary management boards fail to implement the essential reforms, the government will use strengthened powers to impose combined regional fire and rescue authorities.
?If there is no agreement between individual fire brigades to co-operate on anti-terrorism measures it would be simply unacceptable [and] we would have to use that power,? he said.
The figures suggest the larger the brigade the cheaper it is. Combined with proposed larger authorities in regions with elected assemblies, this may fuel suspicion about the government?s long-term plans for the smaller authorities.
The government will publish a national framework setting out its policy as guidance for fire authorities drawing up their own plans. It will have reserve powers
to ensure authorities comply.
The paper includes proposals for an inspection regime based on the comprehensive performance assessment, to be developed by the Audit Commission. The regime will determine whether top performers should get extra flexibilities. Reserve powers to intervene with failing ones are also envisaged.
Alan Riddet, director of community safety at Lincolnshire CC said many East Midlands councils were sceptical: ?We are happy to co-operate with other authorities when it is needed, but we want a local connection.
?It would be far [more] preferable to create collaboration between the police, ambulance and fire services in our area than paint a single picture over fire services in our region,? he added.
The Local Government Association warned fire safety was ?a very local b usiness?. Regionalisation would destabilise the service, it added: ?The problem that is being overlooked is how pragmatic the proposal is. It will take years to get all the new technology sorted out. This will put unnecessary pressure on the service.?