THE head of North Yorkshire's Fire Brigade Union says he has concerns about the future of firefighting as the Home Office takes charge of the service.
Last week, it was announced that the Home Office would take control of the fire service from the Department for Communities and Local Government, with Mike Penning named Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims responsible for the policies of the police and fire services.
The move will give more power to Police and Crime Commissioners in what the Home Office called "a radical transformation of how the police and fire and rescue services work together".
Steve Howley, brigade secretary of the Fire Brigade Union in North Yorkshire, said the change had been sudden but not unexpected.
He said: "Our first reaction is one of concern really because while there have been noises made of a potential dual role for the PCC taking over the role of the fire this home office taking over control from the DCLG is something that's happened quickly and out of the blue, really.
"We need a number of initial concerns addressing and reassurances that where it may be beneficial to us sharing back office functions with the police and looking at potential merges with other services we need to be clear that we need to keep our independent identities on the frontline so fire fighters and crimefighting officers cannot switch roles but can work closely together."
Mr Howley said the services could share some services including human resources, procurement and transport, but "money needs investing into frontline policing and firefighting, it's not just a case of 'cut everything and expect others to pick up the slack'".
He said: "We will be looking to set up a meeting with the PCC and my counterpart in the police federation to see how they envisage things working and what the intention of the PCC are.
"We have been cut to the bone over the last seven years really, and what we can't afford is for the PCC to look at asset stripping for services to prop up the police. If this is explored, it needs to be done openly transparently with an aim to save the front line."