Parliamentarians say they want a fire service that puts the public first

Tim Lezard

Big Ben parliamentMPs have condemned government proposals to allow fire services to be privatised.

A letter from fire minister Brandon Lewis to the chair of the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee has revealed that the government is set to put forward proposals “that would enable fire and rescue authorities in England to contract out their full range of services to a suitable provider.”

The minister is seeking to push the changes through the little-known Regulatory Reform Committee, avoiding full Parliamentary scrutiny.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Just privatising parts of the service has already brought near-disaster. AssetCo, which was given the contract to maintain London’s and Lincolnshire’s fleets of fire engines, failed to do so properly and, when the company collapsed, could have lost them altogether to AssetCo’s creditors.

“While profiting from our public service they were unable to meet their commitments to maintain and renew fire engines and equipment. London and Lincolnshire firefighters reported all kinds of problems.

“These proposals are grotesque and if they come to fruition will sacrifice lives on the altar of profit. This is the same disastrous model that has been used in the health service, the rail industry and local government to slash services while providing bountiful profits for private companies.

“There is no public demand for privatising the fire and rescue service. There is no support among firefighters for these measures. The government should stop now before they do untold damage.”

Now MPs John Mann, Yasmin Qureshi and John Spellar have added their voices to the FBU campaign, saying: “We resolutely oppose the government’s plans to allow fire services to be sold off. Local people need to have confidence that fire-fighting in our area is being run for public protection, not company profit.

“Fire and rescue is an essential service which we all depend on for our safety and sometimes our lives. This letter shows the huge risks that ministers are preparing to take with this vital public service.

“Our experience with the Olympics was a forceful lesson that private firms often cost more and deliver less than promised when they bid to take over public services. We shall be making our voices heard to campaign for a fire service that puts the public first.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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