THE man in charge of Cheshire Police could soon have more power to make decisions on the county’s fire and rescue service.

David Keane, police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Cheshire, is currently allowed to attend meetings of the Cheshire Fire Authority.

While he does not have voting rights, since last February Mr Keane has had the right to be provided with all meeting papers, to be briefed before each meeting, to speak at the meetings and to remain there for items discussed in private.

But under new Government guidelines expected this autumn, Mr Keane will have the chance to apply for full membership of the fire authority – which could be approved or declined by members.

Andrew Leadbetter, director of governance and commissioning at Cheshire Fire Authority, told the governance and constitution committee on Wednesday: “It might be that the PCC already has what he wants.

“However, if the PCC asks for that right to be a member of the fire authority, we would have to think of decent reasons to refuse it.”

If the authority decided to grant Mr Keane full membership, the Warrington councillor would be given the chance to join the Labour group – giving the party an additional seat at the table.

The authority currently has 12 Labour members, eight Conservatives, two independent members and one Liberal Democrat.

His addition would also mean the authority has an even number of members, and a report issued ahead of Wednesday’s meeting said this is ‘usually avoided’.

The report added that PCCs who join fire authorities are not expected to receive additional allowances.

Should Mr Keane request membership and the authority rejects the request, Mr Leadbetter suggested it could prompt the PCC to try and claim power over Cheshire Fire and Rescue.

“I suppose it might make the PCC launch a bid to take over if it was refused,” he added.

“The Government’s policy clearly is to have PCCs take over fire. This would be another step towards that, but that is just one view.”

In 2016 the Government announced it would allow PCCs to take control of governance at fire and rescue services.

Since then, the PCCs for Essex, Staffordshire, West Mercia and Cambridgeshire have been approved to take control of fire and rescue in their patches.

Cllr Eleanor Johnson, Conservative from Cheshire West, admitted she is ‘uncomfortable’ at the prospect of the PCC being appointed as a member of the fire authority.

She said: “I know we are doing blue light collaboration, but it is a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.”

Chairman Cllr Steve Wright, Labour from Warrington, added that the fire authority ‘would need to be prepared’ for whatever decision Mr Keane makes on the matter.