Unions criticise fire service performance report

Unions have criticised a performance assessment of fire authorities in England by the Audit Commission, because it does not take emergency responses into account.

The Commission published scores for 45 fire and rescue authorities on Thursday. Two authorities – Kent & Medway and Merseyside – were named as ‘excellent’, bit six authorities were categorised as ‘weak’ or ‘poor’.

The scores aim to set a baseline for improvement against the backdrop of the government’s modernisation agenda.

The reviews assess how well each authority is run at corporate level and how it operates in the community by helping to make it safer and prevent fires happening. The reviews also examine a wide range of areas including staff training, rates of sickness, team leadership and how well budgets are managed.

Audit Commission Chairman James Strachan said: “These scores are an encouraging start and provide a benchmark for improvement in the future. The results show that nearly half the authorities have started well, but there is room for much improvement across the rest.”

However, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) criticised the Commission’s review and said it had “missed the real point of what the fire service is here to do”.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is a poor attitude to dedicated professionals working in very difficult circumstances.

“Local fire services are seen by the public as providing an excellent public service and this report could send entirely the wrong message. The public judges us by how well we respond to emergencies and other incidents.

"They judge us by how quickly we respond, how many lives we save from fires, and how we deal with other major emergencies from chemical spills to flooding or the aftermath of bombings. That is what the public see as important but this report deals with none of those crucial issues.”


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