Headlines: September 12th, 2003

Plans have been outlined for a new National Framework for the fire and rescue service, which, it is claimed, will lay the foundations for a new relationship between the service and the government, providing the building blocks for a better service that saves more lives.The new framework will set out what the government expects the service to achieve in light of the recent White Paper. It will also establish how the service should undertake specific functions for reasons of national efficiency, and what support Government will provide to allow those aims to be achieved.

Fire Service Minister Nick Raynsford said the framework would in effect be a contract with the fire and rescue service allowing fire authorities to be clear on what they were expected to achieve, and about what support they would get. The framework was first mentioned in the White Paper ‘Our Fire and Rescue Service’, produced in June after the national strike by fire crews, and it will be published later this year.

Mr. Raynsford said it would, in some areas, set out specific proposals on issues where a national or regional solution was needed to ensure that the fire and rescue service worked as effectively as possible. “Procurement of radio systems is one example of this. Another is the new dimension of anti-terrorist work. Brigades need to be able to operate effectively together and with other emergency services to respond to these challenges,” he said.

The fire and rescue service’s institutions were being reformed, he said. He highlighted the Practitioners Forum that now provides ministers with high-level strategic advice, while encouraging brigades to share best practice from across the country. The forum met for the first time earlier this month. Mr. Raynsford also mentioned the Fire Service College, that this year received a seven million pound grant to invest in its facilities and improve its infrastructure to help it become a centre of excellence.