In a wide-ranging speech to the Local Government Association (13 March 2013), the minister spoke about the main issues facing fire and rescue authorities in the year ahead and the importance of preventative work.
While acknowledging that the work by fire and rescue authorities has had a huge impact in reducing accidental deaths, the over 65s still account for almost 50% of all fire-related fatalities. He said that data sharing across government - and working more closely with other parts of government such as the Department for Work and Pensions - would ensure that resources could be more effectively targeted at the most vulnerable in society.
The minister highlighted the vital role of fire prevention and the fact that deaths from fire are at an all-time low and continuing to fall. Praising the work of fire and rescue authorities he said that “prevention is the frontline” and drew attention to the latest phase of the award-winning ‘Fire Kills’ campaign which launched this week.
On your Child’s Life
Mr Lewis also mentioned funding, emphasising that fire and rescue authorities could still do to more to reduce costs, such as better procurement and joint working. To help with this, the Efficiency Review being led by Sir Ken Knight will examine how the fire and rescue authorities can pinpoint further savings while still protecting frontline service quality.
The minister went on to discuss the possibility of mutuals in the fire and rescue sector, making it clear that this was not privatisation by the back door. He said:
“Our aim is to give fire and rescue authorities the flexibility to deliver their services in the best way for their communities, and support those who want to explore a mutual model.
“Any measures would be optional - It would be wholly up to individual fire and rescue authorities as to whether they want to set up a mutual. The funding and accountability for the provision of such services would remain in the public sector; ultimately fire and rescue authorities are statutorily responsible for delivering this important public service.”
Mr Lewis also welcomed the recent appointment of Peter Holland as the incoming Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor and paid tribute to the work done by his predecessor Sir Ken Knight, thanking him for the valuable contribution he had made during his time in the post.