Headlines: August 22nd, 2003

Fire Services, the police and other groups will be able to bid for a share of a four million pound fund to finance schemes designed to combat arson. Successful bids from local partnerships are likely to range from schemes to clear abandoned cars before they are torched, which have proved successful in several parts of the country already.The money announced by Fire Safety Minister Phil Hope is from the Arson Control Forum Implementation Fund, which comes from the Government’s 43 million pound, three-year investment in fire prevention work in England and Wales.

The announcement underlines the government’s intention, set out in the recent Fire White Paper, to make fire prevention central to the role of local fire and rescue services, as part of the wider agenda of tackling social exclusion and assisting neighbourhood renewal.

Mr. Hope highlighted successful existing schemes, including a car clearance scheme in Avon which saw the number of deliberate vehicle fires across the area fall in absolute terms by 3% in 18 months. He also singled out an arson task force in Newcastle’s West End which has initiated schemes to board-up derelict properties, ensure rubbish was stored correctly and cleared away, as well as removing derelict and abandoned vehicles promptly. In the first three years of its existence, the West End saw deliberate property fires reduced by more than 22%.

The minister said the launch of the bidding process for the Arson Control Forum Implementation Fund would enable the best arson reduction methods to be rolled out nationally. The ACF, he said, provided strategic direction to the arson prevention and investigation programme, combating arson through an agreed action plan which should help the government meet its target of a ten percent drop in deliberate fires by March 2010.