John condemns fire service privatisation plans

John Healey has condemned government proposals to allow fire services to be privatised.

In a letter seen by Mr Healey, fire minister Brandon Lewis tells the chair of the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee that he is seeking the committee’s view on proposals “that would enable fire and rescue authorities in England to contract out their full range of services to a suitable provider.”

The Wentworth and Dearne MP said: “Firefighting is a no-go area for privatisation. The first and last concern of our fire services must be public protection not company profit.

“Areas like fire and rescue are essential public services on which we all depend for our safety, and sometimes our lives.

“Ministers are already selling off the national fire service college to Capita. Now they want to open the door to wholesale privatisation of fire services.

“Our experience of 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.”

The changes could mean South Yorkshire’s 700 firefighters and 22 fire stations being employed and run by a private company.

The government have confirmed Capita as their preferred bidder to buy the Fire Service College, a specialist training centre based in Gloucestershire.

In answers to questions asked by Mr Healey in the House of Commons, the fire minister said the College was a £20 million operation but refused to confirm that sale proceeds will be kept by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Mr Healey has led a 12-month national campaign pressing the government for a fairer funding settlement for Metropolitan fire services. The result was a cut to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service over the next two years of £5m, £3m less than fire chiefs had feared.