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06 November 2015
A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that fire services’ ability to respond to major incidents may be constrained by budget cuts.
The report highlights that despite a period of sustained cuts since 2010, fire services across the country have been able to bring down the number of incidents and fatalities, but that further cuts could lead to additional job losses and potential strike action.
Over the last five years, fire authorities have reduced the number of permanent firefighters by 14%, carried out 30% fewer audits of business premises and spent 27% less hours on home fire safety checks.
The report also heavily criticises the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)’s ‘limited understanding’ of of the underlying costs in providing fire and rescue services.
It also says that the department has reduced funding to the fire and rescue authorities with the greatest level of need.
Head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said: “I would expect the DCLG to have a better understanding of the appropriate funding level necessary to support services, in order to maintain the financial sustainability of the sector in the context of funding cuts.
“The department should also seek greater assurance that authorities are maintaining service standards and delivering value for money locally.”
A spokesperson from DCLG told Public Sector Executive: “We collect and publish an extensive range of data from fire and rescue authorities across the country on spending, performance and outcomes, which show improvements across the board.
“DCLG has considerable expertise in this area which allows us to challenge and validate the data and we are confident that services have been maintained while making valuable savings for taxpayers.”
Click here to read the report.