Politicians voice opposition to fire authority reforms
Politicians in Flintshire and Wrexham have voiced opposition to proposed reforms to fire authorities in Wales.
Under a review by the Welsh Government the number of representatives on the North Wales Fire Authority would be reduced from 28 to six.
It would mean each of the region’s six local authorities would only have one member, compared to Flintshire’s current total of six and Wrexham’s five, with allocations based on population.
A suggestion has also been made that representatives should be taken from each council’s cabinet or executive board, meaning backbench councillors would be excluded.
However, both councils have now called for membership of the body, which is responsible for overseeing how firefighters deliver services, to remain the same.
Speaking at a meeting at County Hall in Mold on Tuesday, Flintshire fire authority member Cllr Owen Thomas said: “For the last seven years I have served on the fire authority and found out how efficient it is, but year in, year out they get their cuts and they have to deal with it.
“They have shown their own initiative to find savings.
“One initiative they took on was putting fire detectors in houses which cut the number of call outs and the number of fires drastically.
“It also cut the number of deaths too, which is more important than anything.
“I do think that if a thing works then leave it alone.
“As it stands at the moment it’s very efficient – it can’t be any more efficient otherwise you’re cutting the service.”
Councillors voted in favour of responding to the government white paper by objecting to the proposed reforms.
Meanwhile, Wrexham council leader Mark Pritchard has also written to ministers to highlight his concerns.
He said: “Such a reduction in the current membership would result in the loss of significant experience and would not be representative of the different populations in each local authority area.
“The political balance would also be affected.
“This would reduce rather than improve public accountability, one of the key objectives of the reforms.
“There is an assumption that the nomination of cabinet members rather than ‘backbench’ members will increase expertise, but there is no evidence to support this.
“It is not the best use of a cabinet members’ time to be allocated to such a specific service area.”
The Welsh Government has argued that the changes are necessary in order to improve accountability.
The review was launched by former Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Alun Davies, who has since been replaced following a reshuffle by First Minister Mark Drakeford.
In December, Julie James was named as Minister for Housing and Local Government and hopes have been raised by Flintshire Council’s chief executive that it could lead to the reforms being scrapped.
Colin Everett said: “This was before the cabinet changes so we have a new minister who might have a new attitude.
“I think bringing a constructive response like this might mean we can see off the current proposals.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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