Fire service needs transforming, says review

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A single fire service for England could be created following a government commissioned review.

That is just one of the ideas put forward in a means to ‘transformed’ the fire and rescue service.

Others include more collaboration between fire and other emergency services as well as privatisation.

Incidents are down 40 per cent over the past decade but the number of firefighters was roughly the same.

Former chief fire and rescue advisor Sir Ken said having 46 separate authorities was not ‘sensible’.

He also found that different fire and rescue authorities were spending inexplicable amounts, suggesting that tens of millions of pounds could be saved every year.

Many local authorities are considering ways to save money in fire stations, including mergers such as Brighouse and Elland, new shift patterns and greater use of part-time firefighters.

The review noted little change in expenditure and personnel levels despite the decrease in the number of call-outs.

Although the report made no firm recommendations, it listed a number of ideas for future debate.

Sir Ken insisted the review was about adjusting the service to current needs, not cutting it.

“When I was a firefighter, fire deaths in the home were 700 and 800 a year. Now, they’re 180 a year,” he said.

“It’s a really good news story but the service itself must adapt and change, not only to maintain that fire safety and prevention front, but to adapt its service.

“So why have, even though those fires have gone down 40 per cent - the numbers of firefighters have remained broadly the same.

“It’s a question that the local authorities and fire authorities will need to address and need to answer.”

Ministers will now consider the findings.