Cllr Ian Stephens, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Fire Services Management Committee, which represents 48 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, responds to the second tranche of a national report on fire and rescue services by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.
“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 who have 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.
“We therefore support the report’s call – in particular in its recommendations - for the Home Office to consider resourcing issues.
“The report’s recommendations in respect of consistency are ones we can support, however defining high-risk premises and related auditing processes should be considered in accordance with the recommendations of the Hackitt Review. “We already work very closely with the Home Office and the National Fire Chiefs Council and look forward to discussing how we can take these recommendations forward.
“Although funding cuts have limited recruitment of firefighters in recent years, most fire services in England are now actively recruiting, which is already helping to develop and retain a more diverse workforce.
“With local government facing an £8 billion funding gap by 2025, the Government needs to use the Spending Review to ensure fire and rescue services are properly resourced and funded to ensure they can continue to protect the public in all circumstances.”
Notes to editors
1. Councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025. The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign aims to influence the forthcoming Spending Review and highlight the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils.
#CouncilsCan: Spending Review 2019
With the right funding and powers, councils can continue to lead local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services and save money for the taxpayer. Securing the financial sustainability of local services must be the top priority for the Spending Review.
2. The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services is based on findings from 16 fire and rescue services in England.
3. Examples of work by fire and rescue services to improve diversity and change the public’s perception of firefighters are included in LGA publication, ‘An Inclusive Service: The 21st Century Fire and Rescue Service’
4. LGA publication ‘Fire Vision 2024’ sets out ambitious targets for fire service improvement.
5. The LGA is calling for the height threshold at which automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers, are required in new residential buildings in England to be lowered to 18 metres - down from the current 30-metre/10-storey limit. It is also urging the Government to require automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers, to be installed in all new premises where vulnerable people sleep, including care homes and residential schools.