Home secretary Theresa May backed plans to join up police and fire services in Northamptonshire during a visit to the University of Northampton today.
The Conservative MP met with more than 60 faith leaders, teachers and community champions at the Sunley Conference Centre to answer questions about government policy in the run up to the 2015 elections at the university’s Park campus.
Speaking afterwards, Mrs May said Northamptonshire was blazing a trail for other police and fire authorities in the UK by progressing with plans to “create the first fully integrated emergency service in the country” and hoped that other areas would soon follow suit.
“(Police and crime commissioner) Adam Simmonds has been really leading the way on this she said.
“Other forces are starting to look into it more now.
“I feel from a Government point of view this is something that we will be focusing on more - bringing the services together.”
The home secretary said she hoped authorities also begin looking into ways of joining the ambulance service with police and fire in terms of responding to incidents together.
However the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has expressed strong opposition to the plans which could eventually see Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police sharing properties, services, training and fleet maintenance over the coming years.
Officers from both services could attend incidents in the same vehicles – though Northamptonshire’s FBU secretary Gary Mitchell said would see firefighters being sent to police matters that they are not trained or equipped to deal with.
However the Home Secretary said: “It’s not about people having to do different job to what they do at the moment. Fire officers are trained to fight fires and police are trained to police.
“But this will make efficiencies in terms of back offices functions being shared
“We have been doing a lot of work with the blue light services more generally about how they will work together in an emergency situation.”
In January the Home Office gave Northamptonshire Police £620,000 to help research ways of “fully integrating” Northamptonshire Police and the county’s fire and rescue service.