Headlines: February 13th, 2009

An assessment of fire services in England has found they are continuing to improve and are preventing more fires and saving more lives. But the Audit Commission also found the gap between the best and worst services was getting wider.

Fire CPA, the annual performance assessment, found that 37 of England’s 46 fire services were improving well or strongly. In six cases the rate of improvement had slowed and Cornwall has become the first service to be rated as not improving at all. The report said although there was a clear upward trend it was the high performing services that had stronger and more consistent improvement in the three years since Fire CPA was introduced. Some services were not keeping up with the pace of change set by the best.

The Commission’s Chief Executive, Steve Bundred, said the assessment showed fire services getting better and better but he added, “There are still challenges to overcome and improvements to be made. Services must address workforce diversity and look to the best to see how they can improve efficiency without jeopardising safety. Those services that are lagging behind must catch up with the rest.”

The report said targeting of fire prevention work at those people most at risk had contributed to a six per cent reduction in accidental fires in the home. All fire services had sound financial management but there was scope for savings of up to 200 million pounds. The best services had shown it was possible to save money without jeopardising standards of cover or safety.

The Commission’s view that diversity in the workforce was still a major issue was picked up by the Fire Minister, Sadiq Khan, who said, “We share the Audit Commission’s continuing view that a more representative workforce makes it easier for the service to connect with the different communities most at risk from fire.”