Report calls for reorganisation of Fire and Rescue services
May 29, 2013barriehol
The big fire safety story of the week is the publication of and efficiency review into the fire and rescue services commissioned by the government.
The report made interesting reading. Although fire incidents are down 40% over the past decade and fire deaths fell to an all-time low at 180 compared to 800 a decade earlier the number of fire fighters and the cost of the service (£2.2bn) was by and large unchanged over the period. The Governments published statistics bears this conclusion out showing a fall of staffing numbers of less than 5% over the period. Despite several high profile demonstrations by the FBU over “cuts”, compulsory redundancies were just 243 in 2012 and the vast majority of the remaining 3000 or so staff reductions were through natural wastage including retirements, resignations and non-operational related reasons.
Sir Ken Knight concluded that having 46 separate Authorities was not sensible (or efficient) against this backdrop and that more collaboration between fire and other emergency services and the creation of a single fire service for England, mirroring Scotland’s system was worth consideration.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) described the review as a “fig leaf” for increased cuts to the fire service and rolled out the usual arguments warning of increased response times and consequent danger to life. The FBU also took most of the credit for the fall in fire incidents pointing to the community safety awareness activity of the service even though the stats show a steady decline in hours spent on this in recent years. The truth is there are many reasons for the fall in fire incidents; increased safety awareness, the impact of the RRO, greater use of smoke alarms and improved building codes amongst them.
Although it would be wrong to assume a straight line correlation between the number of fire incidents and the number of firemen needed the Union must face up to the reality of the figures. If you were running a business and your “sales” dropped 40% you would be insane to maintain the same staffing levels. As a publicly funded service the public expects the best value from its investment.