Plans for closer collaboration between the police and the fire service in Northamptonshire have been criticised by opposition councillors.
A report outlining proposals for closer ties between the two blue-light services was approved by the county council’s cabinet on Tuesday.
Portfolio holder Cllr Andre Gonzalez de Savage insisted the report did not outline any changes in the governance of the fire service, which would have to be instigated by central Government – meaning opponents’ fears of a full-scale merger were misplaced.
But the Fire Brigades Union’s Gary Mitchell said seeking closer ties could be interpreted as an insult by firefighters as it would imply their service needed to improve.
Labour and Lib Dem members lined up to attack the plans, saying they would bring a merger one step closer.
Corby councillor and leader of the Labour group John McGhee said: “They do different things, they deliver different services. Any merger would be driven by cuts, and that’s not good for the public.”
Rounding on police commissioner Adam Simmonds, who has made no secret of his desire for closer integration between the services, Cllr McGhee added: “I don’t trust him to run our fire service. He’s already struggling with overseeing the county’s police force – so he should focus his efforts on that.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Dennis Meredith added: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. This is a cost-saving initiative by the police commissioner.”
But council deputy leader Cllr Heather Smith told the meeting: “I am completely appalled with personal attacks on the PCC.
“We are the fire authority, any decision to change the governance of the service will come to us. Let’s stop the scare-mongering about the police commissioner. This is our decision.”
Deputy Chief Constable Martin Jelley said: “We welcome Northamptonshire County Council cabinet approval of an overarching legal agreement between Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, Northamptonshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“Itwhich recognises the ongoing joint working between the police and fire services in the county, and our continued work to provide effective services and make even better use of our resources for the benefit of our communities.”