Fire services could save £200 million a year

Fire services could save £200 million a year
Fire services could save £200 million a year Photo: PA Images

Fire and rescue services in England could save up to £200 million a year if they were operated more efficiently, according to a report.

In the last decade there has been a 40% reduction in call outs and incidents, and accidental deaths from fires in the home have reached an all time low - yet expenditure and fire-fighter numbers have remained broadly the same.

The independent report by Sir Ken Knight, former chief Fire and Rescue adviser for England, found that services continue to spend according to the budget they are given rather than the risks they have to manage.

Significant variations exist between how the 46 different fire authorities operate, with the cost per head of providing a service almost double in some areas to that of others, the report said.

It went on to say that this does not seem to be related to whether they are large or small, rural or urban, deprived or affluent.

The report says that if those authorities spending above the average found ways to reduce their spending to the national average, then the money saved or reinvested could amount to nearly £200 million per year.

The report identified that the 46 fire and rescue authorities across England each had their own management structures, senior leaders and operational differences.

This often leads to widespread duplication of the design, commissioning and evaluation of fire-specific products and demonstrates the potential for much closer co-operation and reconfiguration of services, the report said.

In conducting the review, Sir Ken also found that fire and rescue authorities had high levels of capital reserves.

Between 2008 to 2012 total reserves held by stand-alone fire and rescue authorities increased from just over £200 million to more than £400 million - and the report said this highlights the potential for investing in spend-to-save type projects.

In December, Fire Minister Brandon Lewis asked Sir Ken to carry out an independent review into the ways in which fire and rescue authorities may deliver further efficiencies and operational improvements without reducing the quality of front-line services to the public.

"As a firefighter for over 40 years I know the Fire and Rescue Service in and out. I know firefighters care deeply about public safety and do the best possible job.

"I've seen their capacity to adapt, even in the most trying of circumstances, but my report highlights that there is much more that can be done by the service leaders to make the service as effective and efficient as possible.

"My starting point was to maintain the quality of the service and to protect the safety of the public and firefighters."

– Sir Ken Knight, former chief Fire and Rescue adviser for England