WEST Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner could take control of Worcestershire's fire service under new proposals to save taxpayers around £4 million a year.

John Campion launched a consultation on Monday (June 12) on the proposals which would see him running both Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Services - leading to both authorities being disbanded.

All 40 councillors who sit on the two fire authorities would be replaced by an elected commissioner.

If these changes go ahead in 2020, communities would have the chance to directly elect a local police, fire and crime commissioner.

But, Councillor Roger Phillips, Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority's vice chairman, said the proposals could have the potential to "jeopardise" the performance of the fire services.

The commissioner says expert analysis suggests the changes would help drive forward closer collaboration between the police and fire service, improving services to communities whilst delivering 'significant back-office efficiencies'.

The commissioner would become the body holding chief officers to account within our police and fire services.

The services would share more back office functions and information, to improve efficiency and focus resources on the frontline where they are needed most.

Mr Campion said: "This proposal is about delivering the best long-term results for our communities and our emergency services.

"Our Fire Authorities have laid some good foundations, but it is clear that our communities are not getting the most effective, efficient services they could. That can only be achieved by making this change.

"By ensuring our police and fire services are collaborating and integrated as much as possible, we can deliver better emergency responses, improve prevention measures and increase information sharing between the services.

"It allows us to deliver necessary efficiencies but in a way that protects the frontline, rather than damaging it, which I think is a key priority for our communities."

Mr Campion added: "Integration does not mean 'take over' though.

"I am clear that I would fully respect and retain the professional skills and knowledge within each service and each geographic area.

"Integration could not, and would not, come at the expense of standards of service."

Cllr Phillips said: "As the Fire Authority is made up of members from both Worcestershire County Council and Herefordshire Council, these constituent authorities will consider the outline business case in detail and respond to the public consultation in due course.

"The report also highlights how effectively and efficiently the two fires services are already run by the existing fire authorities, so my initial comment would be that the recommendation to realise even more savings from combining the support functions of all three services may actually have the potential to jeopardise the current high performance of the fire services - especially if it is rushed into.

"Therefore, irrespective of the governance arrangements, if this level of further savings is to be achieved, it needs to be carefully considered and well-planned before any implementation takes place.

"In HWFRS, we have already made real-term savings of nearly £5m in our annual revenue budgets since 2010 - with plans to deliver another £1.6m by 2019/2020.

"Furthermore, there are already plans in place to align the police and fire control room functions into the new operations communications centre at Hindlip Park next year, as well as bringing our support services teams closer together when we move our headquarters to sit alongside the police, also at Hindlip.

"It is vital, therefore, that if further efficiencies are to be made - on top of those already planned - that they do not result in resources being spread too thinly."

Trevor Connolly, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union, worries the plans will damage public trust in local firefighters, which he says has taken a long time to build. 

"We believe our firefighters are held in the highest regard in terms of public trust and satisfaction," he said.

"Combining with the police may lead to the public view that we are no longer impartial.

"The proposed takeover will neither deliver economic of effective emergency services, nor will it optimise public safety."

The consultation on the proposals will end on September 11.

For more information about the consultation, visit westmercia-pcc.gov.uk.