AmberNow we come to the end of 2016 and look forward to 2017, I want to take the time to thank firefighters, staff and volunteers across the country. You work tirelessly around the clock to keep us all safe in our communities and to protect the vulnerable. I know that many of you will be working over the Christmas period, so may I extend my warm wishes to you and your families.

 In my first few months as Home Secretary I have been incredibly impressed by the commitment that you all show. Through my meetings and visits, I have seen first-hand how vital and wide-ranging your work is - from frontline fire fighting and rescues, to your important fire prevention work and excellent relationships with local partners like the NHS. You have faced head on notable incidents throughout 2016 such as the widespread flooding at the turn of the year, the collapse of Didcot power station and the fire at the Royal Clarence Hotel, Exeter. Communities are safer because of you.

 Earlier this year, the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary, announced a wide ranging reform agenda to help the service to become more efficient and build on the great strides in prevention and collaboration that you have already made. The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service and I are committed to delivering this agenda and I am grateful for the positive approach many of you have shown in responding to these reforms and helping us to deliver lasting improvements.

I have been particularly encouraged to see the progress being made across the sector in terms of collaboration. Across the country, I have seen examples of fire and rescue services working more closely together both with one another and with other emergency services, establishing joint headquarters and control rooms. Greater collaboration is key to strengthening the emergency services and to enable you all to effectively respond to the changing demands and the changing needs of our communities. I am proud to see so many of you already stepping up, taking on this challenge and driving reform in your areas and I look forward to seeing the pace and ambition of collaboration go further following Royal Assent to the Policing and Crime Bill in the New Year.

As I look towards 2017, I hope to see the delivery of many of our reforms including the establishment of a new inspectorate and professional standards setting body; greater transparency; commercial transformation and ongoing collaboration, supported by the provisions in the Policing and Crime Bill. The Bill creates a raft of provisions, including a new statutory duty to collaborate which will require each emergency service to work with one another where it is in the interests of their efficiency or effectiveness. It will also enable police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to take responsibility for the governance of fire and rescue services where a local case is made in order to maximise the benefits of collaboration between police and fire, while still keeping the important distinction between operational policing and firefighting, as well as the distinct identity of the fire and rescue service.

And whilst I have been impressed by the efforts made so far, further support will be provided with the development of an inspection regime and the introduction a new professional standards body to drive improvement. I will be watching with great interest as the National Fire Chiefs’ Council begins its work in April 2017 to develop sector leadership and a stronger relationship with government. I wish the Chair-elect Roy Wilsher every success in his role.

I would also like to say a special thank you to Ron Dobson who is stepping down from the role of Commissioner and leaving the London Fire Brigade after 37 years’ of distinguished service. Mr Dobson’s dedication to the fire sector has been exceptional and he will be greatly missed.

I wish you all a safe and successful New Year.