The Government is embroiled in a row over the future of fire brigades, centering on Cleveland Fire Brigade, after union leaders warned of plans to privatise the service.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the prospect of Cleveland Fire Brigade becoming a mutual was a cost-cutting measure which did not have the support of firefighters.
The Communities and Local Government Department said it was "completely misleading" to characterise plans for an employee-led mutual as privatisation.
– Statement from the Communities and Local Government Department
Cleveland Fire Brigade has said a mutual would actively prevent privatisation.
Public safety is always our concern and we continue to work with authorities to ensure they provide the most efficient & effective frontline service there can be.
Fire and rescue authorities will remain statutorily responsible for this public service and to suggest otherwise is completely wrong.
The Government does, however, support co-operatives & employee ownership.
We are keen to work with local authorities & their staff wanting to explore the scope for employee-led mutuals where there is local support and backing.
– Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU
These proposals are grotesque and if they come to fruition will sacrifice lives on the altar of profit.
This is the same disastrous model that has been used in the health service, the rail industry and local government to slash services while providing bountiful profits for private companies.
There is no public demand for privatising the fire and rescue service.
There is no support among firefighters for these measures.
The Government should stop now before they do untold damage.