sirkenFire and Rescue services in England need to be "transformed" to become more efficient and effective, a government-commissioned review has said.

Sir Ken Knight said incidents were down 40% over the past decade but the number of firefighters was roughly the same.

The former chief fire and rescue adviser's three-month review concluded that having 46 separate authorities was not "sensible".

Cover for increased cuts
The Fire Brigades Union described the review as a cover for increased cuts to the fire service. Sir Ken's ideas for the future included the creation of a single fire service for England, mirroring Scotland's system.

He said: "There will be an adjustment of numbers, of jobs, of people but the scale of change is unlikely to be achieved through local action alone".

Ideas for future debate
Although the report made no firm recommendations, it listed a number of ideas for future debate.

These included more collaboration between fire and other emergency services, privatisation, as well as the possibility of a single fire service for England.

Fire service cuts
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, criticised the reports as "a fig leaf for slashing our fire and rescue service to bits".

"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."

Sir Ken insisted the review was about adjusting the service to current needs, not cutting it.

Service needs to adapt and change
"When I was a firefighter, fire deaths in the home were 700 and 800 a year. Now, they're 180 a year," he said.

"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."

Ministers will now consider the findings which concluded that "increasing retained [on-call] firefighters from 10% to 40% would save £130m".

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We will have a full feature on Sir Ken's review in the next issue of FIRE Magazine featuring contributions from several fire sector thought-leaders - click here to subscribe.