Theresa May
Theresa May says she is determined to improve efficiency in fire and rescue servicesLeon Neal/AFP/ Getty Images

A government plan to allow police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to oversee the work of fire and rescue services throughout England have been branded "dangerous" and "half-baked" by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). The Home Office wants increased cohesion between the police and fire services in order to cut the costs, once it takes control of fire and rescue policy in 2016.

One key proposal is to allow PCCs to take control of their local fire services, which are currently overseen by bodies made up of local councillors. Fire chiefs would have similar opportunities and could be appointed chief constables in order to run local police services, the government disclosed.

The plan has met with sharp criticism from the FBU, however, who claim that it could put lives at risk and lead to the "fragmentation" of England's emergency services. In a statement on its website, the FBU claimed that PCCs have an "unfortunate record for ill-judged interference in operational matters", adding that they do not "bring any skills or expertise to the fire and rescue service".

"Enabling PCCs to govern fire and rescue services will neither deliver economic, efficient or effective emergency services, nor optimise public safety," the statement reads. It goes on to claim that the plan could damage the trust firefighters have built in communities across the country.

Later, the FBU's general secretary Matt Wrack branded the proposal "half-baked", telling the BBC that he felt it was little more than an exercise in "empire building" by a handful of ambitious PCCs. "There's very little evidence, there's no research been carried out, there's no support for it among firefighters and there's no support for it among police officers, there's no support among local communities and yet the government seems to be intent on forcing

"There's very little evidence, there's no research been carried out, there's no support for it among firefighters and there's no support for it among police officers, there's no support among local communities and yet the government seems to be intent on forcing it though," he said.

firefighters
The plan has met with sharp criticism from the FBU who claim that police and crime commissioners overseeing the dangerous work carried out by firefighters could put lives at riskReuters

Concerns over the negative impact of the plan were played down by Surrey PCC Kevin Hurley, however, who said: "There are many similarities in the way in which fire services and police services work, the way they are trained, the way they acquire their equipment and so on." He added that fire and police department mergers would largely be at a "back office" level, adding that cynics should stop trying to block the plan and focus on trying to "make the best of this in the public interest".

Hurley added that fire and police department mergers would largely be at a "back office" level, adding that cynics should stop trying to block the plan and focus on trying to "make the best of this in the public interest".

The row comes after Home Secretary Theresa May said she was "determined" to improve efficiency in fire and rescue services, pointing out that their IT systems and building management were among several areas that fell below the standard expected of a key emergency service. She also hinted at introducing an independent body to inspect service and regularly publish performance data.

"I look at the fire and rescue service and I see the need for many of the same reforms that I started in policing five years ago… Better local accountability, more transparency and a relentless focus on efficiency," May said. "So, while I continue to finish the job of reform in policing, I am also determined to properly kick-start the job of reform in fire," she added.