Our emergency services are probably facing yet another five years of cuts to their budgets.
During that same period there is no anticipation that there will be any reduction in the demand for their services, on the contrary it is likely that demand will increase.
There doesn’t appear to be any national strategic vision as to what our fire, police and ambulance services will look like in the future. Senior managers of these services, in most cases, are simply managing these cuts as and when they are announced.
Last year, it appeared a reasonable prospect that the police service may move towards establishing a national police service. I think the chances of that are now far less likely. However, clearly there are going to have to be mergers top of the list appears to be the police forces for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Local police federation officials think that will happen in the next four years.
I think the future of our emergency services is going to be guided by the impact of the Tory government’s new Cities Devolution Bill. This will give considerable power to the regions, as it is now recognised the country can no longer be controlled from London alone.
What I foresee happening is in a large area like Greater Manchester, the emergency services will come under the control of the Police and Crime Commissioner and this will lead to a gradual merging of budgets, headquarters, control rooms and other business services.
This may have a knock-on effect with the surrounding regions, which could lead to county areas merging or entering into more collaborative agreements. Perhaps even the joining together of Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and even Merseyside. These areas would then have access to more devolved power and funding which would in turn lead to a similar merging of the emergency services under a single Police and Crime Commissioner.
The creation of large regional areas would not be easy and also have considerable ramifications for local councils and politicians.
However, there is the real potential that during the next five years this country is going to be reshaped, with mergers taking place between different areas and public services at an unprecedented rate.
The emergency services will be central to these developments and in five years time may look very differently from the way they do now.