PCC to join fire authority following damning report

Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) will help oversee local fire services after a report sparked demands for a “radical restructure”.

Jul 27, 2017

Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) will help oversee local fire services after a report sparked demands for a “radical restructure”. Sue Mountstevens announced she will join a revamped Avon Fire Authority on Thursday (July 27) to help address serious failings relating to pay awards and bullying. A Home Office inspection accused the fire authority of running an “old boy’s club” culture where senior officers were allowed to inflate their salaries unchallenged while frontline officers suffered pay restraint. However, Ms Mountstevens will not take sole responsibility for governing local fire services, and will instead join others on a restructured fire authority. The announcement comes after Essex PCC Roger Hirst announced he will assume governance of his own fire service on Tuesday (July 25). In a joint statement with Bristol’s deputy mayor and local councillors, Ms Mountstevens said: “We’ve all seen the inspection report and it’s highly critical of the governance, leadership and the culture of Avon Fire Authority. “We have also seen the response of the current Fire Authority, which we feel does not address the failings and therefore we are not convinced that the Fire Authority can fix itself. “As leaders we have a responsibility to our residents to ensure that the issues identified in this report are put right. We believe this can only be done with a radical restructure. “We will form a new reduced Fire Authority in line with the report’s recommendations with the police and crime commissioner.” The report found senior fire officers, including the chief officer, had enjoyed pay rises up to eight per cent while junior colleagues were limited by the one per cent public sector cap on increases. It added that certain people have held senior management positions for so long that the service is unable to effectively deal with legacy issues. A potential merger between the PCC’s office and Avon Fire Authority is complicated by the fact the fire and police service boundaries in Avon and Somerset do not line up. The Home Office said this problem meant giving the PCC governance responsibilities should be pursued as a “potential medium-term solution”. However, police and fire officers will soon share Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s headquarters and talks regarding further collaboration are ongoing.

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