An independent review into the fire and rescue service in England that looks into its role, efficiency, accountability and work with other emergency services has today been published.
The review, which does not represent Government policy, has drawn in ideas from across the sector. Its publication marks the end of the first stage in a process which will shape the service’s future shape and direction.
Fire Futures, four sector led reports, put forward a range of ideas on how the fire and rescue sector can work together to address current and future challenges and presents new models and wide-ranging options for delivering fire and rescue services. Each of the separate options will be considered against the Government’s commitment to localism, decentralisation, and transparency, while also delivering value for money.
The Government will report back formally by March 2011. However, Ministers are indicating today that they do not wish to take forward more controversial proposals on (a) a new levy on home insurance and motor insurance policies, (b) charging for road traffic accidents and (c) charging higher council tax for fire services in urban areas. These proposals do not reflect the views of Ministers.
The Fire Futures reports are:
Role of the Fire and Rescue Service - this looks at the additional powers and responsibilities required to overcome barriers faced by the fire and rescue service in delivering service and options for closer working with other emergency services.
Efficiency, Effectiveness and Productivity - looks at ways to improve operational efficiency, purchasing and procurement.
Localism and Accountability - outlines a series of proposals to extend localism, transparency and accountability by offering communities a greater role in determining and monitoring local services.
National Interests - looks at the respective roles of the fire and rescue service and government in national resilience, the built environment, improved knowledge management and decentralisation.
Some of the options for consideration coming from the reports include:
- seeking a power of general competence - taking power away from the centre and placing it locally;
- a less prescriptive National Framework setting out national and local roles and the rights and expectations communities should have of the fire and rescue service; and
- exploring scope for closer working between fire and ambulance services.
The Fire Minister Bob Neill said:
I thank the review’s members for their independent report and their contribution to an ongoing debate. This is not a blueprint for the fire and rescue service, but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. There are some suggestions that the Government does not wish to pursue - such as a new insurance levy or higher council tax.
The fire sector does need to lead change so that it can continue to provide the excellent service communities have come to expect. But government also has a role to play, handing freedoms back to fire authorities. We have already listened and started with proposals in the Localism Bill freeing fire and rescue authorities from constantly needing government approval, and make greater use of their assets and capacity to support the Big Society.
Notes to editors
- The chairs of the Fire Futures Workstreams presented their independent reports to Bob Neill at a roundtable discussion on Wednesday 15 December 2010. The Fire Futures reports are available on the Department’s website: http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firerescueservice/firefutures/.
- In July 2010, Fire Minister Bob Neill invited partners to set the terms of the review and to develop wide ranging options with the power to shape the future structure and direction of the fire and rescue service. The sector has been firmly in the lead with DCLG in support and over a hundred partner bodies and volunteers have contributed to these reports. The Government will consider the recommendations and report back formally by March 2011.
- Partners are encouraged to give their reactions to the report by emailing the Fire Futures email account at FireFutures@communities.gsi.gov.uk.
- The workstream on the role of the Fire and Rescue Service (Delivery Models) was led by Cllr David Milsted, Dorset Fire and Rescue Authority; the workstream on Efficiency, Effectiveness and Productivity was led by Chief Fire Officer Max Hood, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service; the workstream on Localism and Accountability was led by Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Authority; and Brian Robinson, Association for Specialist Fire Protection led the workstream on National Interests.
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