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17.05.13

A single fire service for England? – Knight review

The fire and rescue service must be “transformed”, a Government-commissioned review has urged. Sir Ken Knight, who has had a 40-year career in firefighting, including as a chief fire officer, found that significant change must be made to make the service more efficient and effective.

Having 46 separate fire authorities was not sensible, the review found, and suggests England could follow Scotland’s example by creating a single service. The report does not make specific recommendations, however.

The review also highlighted significant variations in service spending, and little change in expenditure and personnel levels, despite a decrease in the number of callouts. It recommends more collaboration between fire and other emergency services, and for privatisation to be considered.

Sir Ken said: “When I was a firefighter, fire deaths in the home were 700 and 800 a year. Now, they're 180 a year.

“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% – the number of firefighters remained broadly the same. It's a question that the local authorities and fire authorities will need to address and need to answer.”

But Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, criticised the report as “a fig leaf for slashing our fire and rescue service to bits”.

He said: “David Cameron has promised to protect front-line services. That has been exposed as a lie over the past three years as the fire service has faced the biggest cuts in its history.”

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