The Member of Parliament for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham MP, today hit out at the Department for Communities and Local Government for being “secretive” about the meetings that they have held with Cleveland’s Chief Fire Officer and Chair of the Fire Authority.
The Chief Fire Officer of Cleveland has proposed turning the service into a mutual organisation owned by its employees and has held a series of meetings with Government Ministers and officials who have been encouraging him to do so and have provided tens of thousands of pounds to help despite opposition from fire fighters.
Alex is concerned that such a move would lead to the eventual privatisation of the critical Fire and Rescue Service which is responsible for one of the highest fire risk areas in Europe. There is nothing currently in law that would prevent it being privatised if it were to go down this road.
Alex had asked the Department in a series of Parliamentary Questions whether they would provide information about the meetings that they had been having with Cleveland officials, but the Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis, refused to provide it, leading many to wonder whether they had something to hide.
In response to this unwillingness to provide clear answers, Alex has submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Department which he hopes will shed some light on the meetings, agendas and outcomes
“I find the Government’s secretiveness difficult to understand. If they are serious about going ahead with a mutualisation – particularly one that would lead to a full privatisation of the service – they should be open about the meetings that they have had and what the result of those meetings were.
“I have tabled a Freedom of Information Request because it is important that we are aware of what the Government and the Fire Service management are up to. There is nothing in law which would stop this mutualisation mutating into a privatisation, and the people of Teesside are entitled to know who has been meeting who, and what has been said.”