‘Variations’ in fire protection

An inspection of 16 fire and rescue services by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that most of them are operating with reducing budgets and fewer staff.

Inspectors are concerned that two services may not be able to absorb further budget reductions without this having a negative effect on the service they provide to the public.

HMICFRS has recommended that common definitions, standards and applications are adopted in four priority areas, including identifying and measuring emergency response times, defining high-risk premises for fire protection purposes, and setting how frequently those buildings are checked.

It said the Home Office, National Fire Chiefs Council and the LGA should establish a programme of work to make these consistent “as soon as practicable”.

Cllr Ian Stephens, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, which represents 48 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, said: “This report reaffirms that the key strengths of fire and rescue services are their dedicated staff, who respond effectively to emergencies to help save lives and prevent fires, the public’s great respect for them, and the increasing priority given to support services for their workforce, which has to deal with traumatic incidents.

“Improvements have been made in the short period since the first tranche of inspections, including significant and ongoing sector transformation.

“However, with nearly half of those fire and rescue services inspected relying on old and unreliable equipment, and some unable to absorb any further budget cuts, it is clear that more funding is essential if they are to modernise and deliver these improvements to their full potential.”

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