From Fire and Rescue Authorities to Police Fire and Crime Commissioners – a comparative study of governance and accountability arrangements in English Fire and Rescue Services

Lakoma, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-2583-3813, 2021. From Fire and Rescue Authorities to Police Fire and Crime Commissioners – a comparative study of governance and accountability arrangements in English Fire and Rescue Services. In: 8th Public Management and Administration Postgraduate Conference, 6 September 2021.

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A growing number of recent studies have raised concerns about accountability within traditional forms of public governance (Behn 2001, Bovens et al 2014, Murphy et al 2019). Much of the literature has also highlighted changing public expectations with regard to the quality and effectiveness of public sector organisations (Moore et al. 1995). The recognition of these limitations has prompted the proliferation of new forms of public sector governance, including the development of networks and collaborative arrangements at the local level (Klijn 2008). As result of these changes, the notion of public governance has become multifaceted and complex, which has brought new challenges around establishing accountability relationships (Kersbergen and Waarden 2004). Despite the increasing interest in new forms of governance, current understanding of emerging governance forms is limited and further research is required to better understand the differences between traditional and new forms of public governance, and their impacts on the nature and perceptions of accountability.

This study examines governance models for a key but under-researched public service, namely fire and rescue service. The UK’s Policing and Crime Act 2017 placed a statutory duty on the police, fire, and ambulance services in England to collaborate at the local level. In response to alleged governance deficiencies within the fire sector, the legislation also encouraged and enabled, but did not mandate, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to take on responsibilities for the governance of their local fire and rescue authorities and become Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners (PFCCs). This required them to make a ‘local case’ to the Home Secretary.

Recent studies have identified the immaturity of these governance and accountability arrangements, and their relationship with the new external inspection arrangements introduced by the 2017 Act (Murphy et. al. 2019). This paper uses a comparative multiple case study design to explore governance arrangements for six different fire and rescue services in England, three of which adopted the new PFCC model of governance, and three of which continued to rely on the predominant and long-standing model of governance with a fire and rescue authority made up of local councillors. The cases were selected using ‘most different systems’ design (Przeworski and Teune 1970) to identify different governance models and their influence on perceptions of accountability within each authority. The study draws on 38 semi-structured interviews with senior management in fire and rescue services, 5 focus groups with front-line operational staff and publicly available documents to understand governance arrangements and perceptions of accountability within each authority.

The emergent findings demonstrate that the new PFCC model of governance is being preferred to the long-standing fire and rescue authority governance model. However, the data also reveals concerns regarding the genuine motivation for this type of governance. The case studies indicate a variety of different motivations for and against the transition from a fire and rescue authority to a PFCC model of accountability, which include resource availability, previous leadership failures and existing collaboration arrangements. The study sheds new light on public governance by adopting a constructivist approach (Bevir 2009), using participants’ existing knowledge of governance practices, and highlighting the importance of local factors and national politics in shaping each authority’s new knowledge.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Lakoma, K.
Date: September 2021
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 10 Sep 2021 14:11
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2021 14:11

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