October 20 saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne deliver the results of the government's long-anticipated Comprehensive Spending Review to the House of Commons. Alongside a raft of measures touching almost every aspect of British public life, he set out reductions of 28 per cent in local authority budgets over the next four years - one of the biggest cuts to any department.
The Fire and Rescue Service will face cuts of around 25 per cent, 'back-loaded' so that the majority of the reductions will not be felt until 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
Fire Minister Bob Neill said in a letter sent to all fire authority heads and chief fire officers: "As a frontline service, the Fire and Rescue Service has been given some protection, although there will be tough choices for fire and rescue authorities to make. Fire and rescue authorities have the time to make the changes necessary to meet the reductions without impacting on the quality or breadth of services offered to their communities."
He went on to impress the importance of service and delivery transformation, highlighting several areas for authorities to look at. These included staffing arrangements, sickness management, pay restraint and recruitment freezes, shared services/back office functions, improved procurement, sharing chief fire officers and other senior staff, and voluntary amalgamations.
He concluded: "Going forward, we are also asking the fire and rescue sector, through the Fire Futures review, to take the lead in shaping the future strategic direction of the Service to meet the challenges ahead, including those which emerge from the Spending Review.
"Whilst the Spending Review settlement is difficult for all, I give you my commitment that I will continue to work with you to remove barriers and to increase the flexibility and freedom you have to do the job for which you are accountable to your local communities."