Headlines: February 9th, 2007




Council leaders have welcomed the establishment of a new unit to give government ministers and civil servants independent advice on fire and rescue services as a step in the right direction. A new post of Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser is being created to head the group, which should be at work by the summer and which will replace the present Inspectorate.

The Local Government Association said the new unit would have an important role to play in bringing innovation and professionalism to the service. Councillor Les Byrom, who chairs the Association’s Fire Services Management Committee, said, “HM Fire Services Inspectorate has provided a valued service to fire and rescue authorities over many years, but that role has now changed. We now need an adviser who will bring drive and an emphasis on delivering the best ideas to help save lives and prevent fires.”He said the Chief Adviser should be able to provide advice to fire authority members, as well as to the government and civil servants. There were times, he said, when elected members needed an independent view from someone outside their own service.

The Fire Services Minister, Angela Smith, who announced the creation of the new unit within the Department of Communities and Local Government, said it would advise ministers and senior staff on structure, organisation and performance, including equality, of fire and rescue services. It would also disseminate good practice to local services and give advice to national and local government during any major emergencies.

The Minister paid tribute to the work of HM Fire Service Inspectorate and the contribution it had made to professionalism and the downward trend in fire deaths since the late 1950s, but she said, “The fire and rescue service has changed to better meet the challenges of today’s world and the way in which Government engages with the service has also changed with local decision making. The Government has therefore decided that it is no longer appropriate to retain the Inspectorate, but better to reflect the changes with a new professional advisory unit to provide support to Ministers and others.