An expert led review into the operational efficiency of the services delivered by fire and rescue authorities in England was announced today (14 December 2012).
Despite the public sector deficit, the government has protected fire and rescue authority funding. Some reduction was unavoidable but it was back-loaded so sensible savings could be made without impacting the service the public gets. Overall, fire and rescue authority spending power reductions – which takes into account grants from central government and council tax, was limited to 2.2% in 2011-12 and 0.5% in 2012-13.
The review is to be conducted by former firefighter and out-going government Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, Sir Ken Knight, in the new year. The review will seek to identify ways fire and rescue authorities can pinpoint savings and improvements without reducing the quality life-saving services that the country’s fire firefighters are known for.
Many authorities have begun making efficiencies, but there is more that can be done to be more transparent about spending or introduce joint working with other emergency services liked shared senior management structures, improved procurement practices and better use of estates.
Fire deaths and incidents are at an all time low. Over the last decade attendance at incidences has fallen by 39% and attendance at fires by 48%. The review will help today’s fire service reflect that change.
In conducting the review, Sir Ken Knight will talk to key partners to help develop his findings including the Local Government Association, Fire Sector Federation, the Chief Fire Officers’ Association and the Fire Brigades Union, as well as individual authorities and other emergency services. The report is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013.
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said:
“We all recognise our firefighters perform an incredibly important public service. That is why spending for fire and rescue authorities, like other blue light services, has been protected. But we cannot escape the reality that every bit of the public sector has to help reduce the deficit we inherited.
“Public safety is always our first concern and this review will make sure no stone has been left unturned in the quest for the most efficient and effective front-line fire service there can be. I know Sir Ken is passionate about the quality of fire and rescue services and he will bring an enormous amount of experience and knowledge to the task.”
Sir Ken Knight said:
“With over 40 years in the fire service, I know firefighters care deeply about public safety and want to provide the best possible service, but we need to make sure that service is as effective and efficient as possible. Many authorities have made great strides already, but there is much more that can be done.
“This review is a real opportunity to get to grips with what is happening on the ground, to highlight best practice and make sure that every option for efficient working is being explored. I will be talking to firefighters, fire authorities and union reps about how we can get there.”
Terms of reference
To review the ways in which fire and rescue authorities may deliver further efficiencies and operational improvements without reducing the quality of front-line services to the public. The review will examine options for savings both within and beyond the current Spending Review period, including through:
flexible staffing and crewing arrangements
the use of retained firefighters
collaboration with emergency services and other organisations on service delivery and estates
sharing of senior staff
locally led mergers and operational collaborations
new fire-fighting technology
working with local businesses
In conducting this review:
Sir Ken Knight will talk to key organisations in the fire sector, including the Local Government Association, the Chief Fire Officers’ Association, the RFU, the FBU, the Fire Sector Federation, individual fire and rescue authorities and others who Sir Ken deems relevant
Sir Ken will undertake up to 10 visits to a representative range of fire and rescue authorities, including those covering urban and rural areas, and those constituted as metropolitan, county and combined authorities
the department will provide Sir Ken with analytical support, in particular in looking at examples of efficiencies from outside of the fire sector
The review will take into account the findings of previous reviews and reports and their recommendations, including the 2002 ‘Independent Review of the Fire Service’ (the Bain Report), the Audit Commission’s 2008 ‘Community Safety National Report’, ‘Rising to the Challenge’, the 2010 Fire Futures review, and the 2011/2012 ‘Independent Review of Police Officer’ and ‘Staff Remuneration and Conditions’ (the Winsor Reports).