No public mandate exists for the West Midlands Fire Service to be taken over by the Mayor according to the results of a public consultation, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said. The consultation saw just 1163 people respond out of a population of 2.8 million people within the West Midlands.
The union has also warned that if the plans are given the go-ahead then the powers of the proposed fire advisory committee need to be extended in order to provide credible oversight and
accountability of Mayor Andy Street’s leadership of the emergency service. Currently, the FBU says the committee is toothless and lacks powers of intervention.
The 15 member advisory panel is made up of councillors plus one representative each from the Police, Ambulance and Health service. It means no one with any meaningful knowledge of the fire and rescue service will sit on the panel that the union believes does not have the power to properly scrutinise policy.
Pete Goulden, from the FBU in the West Midlands, said:
“The advisory committee is all gum, no teeth. It will have no powers to intervene or challenge the Mayor, service employees will not be represented and there will be a dangerous lack of knowledge of even the basics of firefighting. This could be a disastrous change of governance and has nowhere near enough public support for the changes to be made. There is the potential for every member of the committee to strongly disagree with the Mayor but with no actual power to do anything.
“Decisions affecting West Midlands firefighters will be made by those with no experience of firefighting. Our profession is a dangerous one; firefighters deal with life and death issues every day. It is essential people who understand our work sit on the panel and it needs to have greater oversight powers of the Mayor if it is not to be a total disaster. This proposal needs to go back to the drawing board and thought about again.”