NFCC responds to appointment of new Fire Minister
THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) cited the latest national fire statistics to call on the government to ‘ensure services are properly resourced’.
Mr Malthouse was named the new minister after the recent reshuffle undertaken by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, replacing Nick Hurd. In a release, the NFCC said that it was ‘looking forward to working with’ Mr Malthouse, with NFCC chair Roy Wilsher outlining a series of key areas in which he would ‘like to see a continued and dedicated focus’.
These include the Grenfell Tower inquiry and its emerging issues, the Hackitt Review and building regulations reform, and Mr Wilsher urged the government to ‘progress crucial policy work in these areas’ to ensure the ‘best outcome for the public and fire services across the country’. He stated: ‘I am looking forward to continuing NFCC’s relationship with the Home Office, MHCLG and the new Fire Minister. It is useful that our new minister - Kit Malthouse - is familiar with the building safety review from his time as Housing Minister.
‘However, I am disappointed it took a long time to name the politician with responsibility for fire. There are several high-profile areas which need progressing at pace, including the Grenfell Tower Inquiry which remains a major focus for NFCC and its findings will impact on all fire and rescue services and the wider sector.
‘It is imperative the Government does not lose sight or momentum on progressing these important issues, as the pace of change and reform - especially in terms of building safety - has not moved quickly enough to date. The recent independent inspections of fire services have found that many protection departments are struggling to maintain existing risk-based inspection programmes.’
Mr Wilsher noted in turn: ‘The first two tranches of inspections report protection work is under-resourced in many of the fire and rescue services inspected and that budget reductions have disproportionately fallen on protection teams. For the past decade, fire and rescue services have suffered under austerity, with a reduction in whole time firefighters by 23 per cent.
‘It is essential fire and rescue services receive appropriate funding; which must be addressed by any future Comprehensive Spending Review, to ensure fire services are resourced to risk as well as demand. The service is reaching a tipping point where further funding cuts will pose an unacceptable risk to communities.
‘While fire and rescue services have reformed and made several efficiencies in recent years, NFCC is concerned that further funding reductions are unsustainable. There must be a resilient fire service in place which can respond quickly and efficiently to a wide range of emergencies, based on risk. It is essential communities we serve have absolute confidence in their fire service.’
Mr Wilsher concluded: ‘The re-introduction of an inspection regime for FRS highlights the benefits of national ways of working. The NFCC is keen to develop national policy positions and approaches across the fire service to ensure the public receive the same high level of service no matter where they live.
‘This will take a significant amount of resources and expertise to execute, and I am keen to work with the new Cabinet to use HMICFRS’s findings and recommendations, in conjunction with the range of new and existing NFCC programmes to implement change and transformation across the country.
‘Another key element of ensuring the sector is held to robust standards is the development of the new independent Fire Standards Board, chaired by Suzanne McCarthy. This board, which is currently running a series of pilots, will develop rigorous, consistent and fit-for-purpose standards which incorporate the views and learnings of a wide range of industry experts.
‘The NFCC is looking forward to continuing to work collaboratively with government and the new Cabinet towards these outcomes.’