The Chief Fire Officers Association has raised concerns about the impact of cuts to Fire and Rescue Authority budgets announced by the Chancellor in his Comprehensive Spending Review this week.
A statement from the Association said: "CFOA is aware of the need for additional cuts to public sector spending in the current economic climate. Although the cut received for 2015 is slightly smaller for Fire and Rescue Authorities than for the Department of Communities and Local Government as a whole, equating to around 7.5%-10% of grant funding, it is considerably higher than similar public services such as Police. We await further clarity around these figures which will tell us the true impact of the cut."
Little choice but to significantly change frontline services
CFOA believes that continued cuts of this scale will mean that many Fire and Rescue Services will have little choice but to consider significant changes to front line services that will impact on the quality and speed of response to incidents and the vitally important prevention and protection work that has done so much to reduce calls in recent years.
In order to assist with such funding cuts CFOA has called for a relaxation of referendum limits for all Fire Authorities.
The statement continued: "We do however, welcome the £45m Fire Efficiency Inventive Fund to continue the excellent work already being undertaken by services and would hope that this will be non prescriptive to continue. Similarly welcome is the £30m of funding to encourage more joint working, we would hope that both these funds would not be part of a bidding process which would add an additional burden to Fire and Rescue Services."
Support innovative approaches to service delivery
"As the professional voice of the Fire and Rescue Service, the Chief Fire Officers Association is keen to support innovative approaches to service delivery and we welcome the release of “Improving Efficiency, Interoperability and Resilience of our Blue Light Services” this week along with the Chancellors commitment for “integration of local emergency services” and the debate this opens regarding a co-ordinated approach to blue light services.
"We particularly welcome the recognition of CFOA’s role in providing strategic direction and advice to government on fire policy and as an organisation support calls both from this report and the Facing the Future report for closer joint working between blue light services. CFOA recognises the synergies between the skills of a Fire fighter and the ability of Fire Authorities to provide rapid emergency response and the outcomes required of an emergency medical response. Nowhere is this clearer than in the close working between Urban Search and Rescue teams and Ambulance Hazard Areas Response teams The Fire Service has also been at the forefront of joint working between fire services, other emergency services and partners in the private and third sector. CFOA and fire and rescue services already chair the Joint Emergency Services Programme (JESIP) which is jointly run by the three blue light services."
Single national emergency response service
"We would argue that current mechanisms for national resilience and interoperability, which are being continuously improved through programmes such as JESIP, are not as poor a state the report would seem to suggest, but fully recognise there is room for continued improvement and welcome the debate on the future sustainability of resilience across UK emergency services. We would also raise a concern regarding the sustainability of national resilience functions in the light of on-going cuts.
"We are however concerned that the report discusses the possibility of a full merger of fire and ambulance services and the creation of a single national emergency response service. This government has long advocated a local approach to public service provision and this is very much how fire and rescue services are organised. Previous attempts to merge fire services have met with opposition from local politicians."
Respected and trusted public service
"Surveys over many years have confirmed that the Fire and Rescue Service is one of the most respected and trusted public services and our excellent work in prevention has led to led to a 40% reduction in incidents in the last 10 years. HMIC has suggesting that Police should learn lessons from the FRS, while the Ambulance and Health Services have also recognised their need to bring down call numbers in a similar way. We would not want to see this excellent progress and reform lost if we became a small fish in a big organisation given our relative size compared to Police and health.
"We would support measures to encourage closer collaboration between Ministers and government departments, as this would great assist in efforts to drive through reform and undertake collaboration and joint working."