This note examines the controversy over reports that Cleveland Fire Brigade is proposing becoming a "Public Service Mutual", with Government support.Jump to full report >>
There have been a number of reports that Cleveland Fire Brigade is considering setting up a “Public Service Mutual” which would provide services under contract to the Fire and Rescue Authority. The Government has announced backing in the form of specialist business support to help progress the plan for what they refer to as “Britain’s first ‘John Lewis style’ Fire Brigade.” Some commentators, including the Fire Brigade Union, have expressed fears that this could be a “stepping stone” to eventual privatisation. The Government has published a rebuttal (entitled Ministers respond to false alarm of fire service ‘privatisation’) saying that any attempts to characterise the plans as privatisation are “completely misleading”.
Providing front-line fire services through a public service mutual would require changes to primary legislation, and there have been press reports that the Government has been exploring the possibility of doing this through a Legislative Reform Order. No such order has been laid.
On 17 May 2013 Sir Ken Knight’s report into the future of the Fire Service, entitled Facing the future, was published. The report touched upon the subject of public sector mutuals.
Commons Briefing papers SN06590
Authors: Pat Strickland; Diana Douse