THE Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) could be given the power to head up fire authorities under new plans.

David Cameron announced that a consultation will be launched into the proposal in a bid to make emergency services more efficient and to save money.

However, firefighters have hit out at the plans, fearing people would no longer see firefighters as independent from the police.

Fire Brigade Union bosses have also said the PCC has no democratic mandate to take up the position.

However, Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said it is right for the plan to be considered given the "climate of austerity".

Mrs Bourne said: “I welcome the Government’s opportunity to consult on new ways for blue light agencies to work more closely together.

"Given the climate of austerity, we have a duty to explore every avenue of joint working including new operating models and governance structures.

"However, any consideration for these proposals will need a compelling business case and full public support."

She added that the emergency services had much to learn from each other.

The Government is proposing to allow individual commissioners to take over from fire authorities if it saves money and helps locally.

They have said it is part of efforts to make emergency services work together more at a time of budget cuts.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said the plans risked the fire service no longer being seen as neutral.

He said: “There is absolutely no case for PCCs to take over the fire and rescue service. PCCs have no genuine democratic mandate or understanding of the role and function of the fire and rescue service.

"Police are law enforcers, while fire and rescue is a humanitarian service with a very different remit and culture."

Francis Bishop, secretary of the West Sussex branch of the Fire Brigades’ Union, added: "I would very much hope it does not happen and I don’t think it will. I have not heard much appetite for it.”

The Government has said the proposals would make the emergency services more efficient, for example by creating a single employer for police and fire staff and the two services sharing back office functions.