Merging of police and fire services

Dear Editor,

"In the light of the announcement by Mike Penning, Police and Fire Services Minister, that Police and Crime Commissioners may well take responsibility for the Fire and Rescue Services as well, it focused on the potential possibility of merging the emergency call centres.

On the face of it, this seems a good idea. I served for 28 years with the Lancashire Constabulary and cooperation and joint working with colleagues in the Lancashire Fire and Rescue was essential for everyone and continues to be a daily occurrence as both services seek to serve the people of the county.

Information would be received from the BT 999 service and passed to both control rooms separately. On arrival at the scene of a road traffic collision, fire or other incident  we would then jointly decide on the best use of the staff and equipment to deal with the incident. So it would seem to make sense that this command and control should begin earlier in the process.

However, I add a word of caution. The telephone and radio control centres of our emergency services are an extremely complex working environment. In some months the staff have to cope with over 90,000 calls (Home Office 101 data), many of these are life and death situations and the stress and strain on them can be extreme. Before we go down this route of merging we must carefully weigh up all the advantages/disadvantages and of course the potential financial savings could be of great benefit to releasing more front-line resources."

Andrew Pratt,
Conservative candidate for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner elections