The commission report is based on a diagnosis of around 400 areas of fire brigade work and each fire authority is given a separate 'traffic light' signal in each category. The commission describes the green light as 'gold standard'.
Mike Fordham, Fire Brigades Union assistant general secretary, said: 'The results are crystal clear: the momentum of change in the fire and rescue service is rapid and growing. Huge strides in implementing the government's modernisation programme are being made in nearly all fire brigades.'
The FBU is balloting on industrial action after the employers refused to pay a 3.5 per cent increase due from last November and a further 4.2 per cent rise due from 1 July.
'After rejecting agreement to release the long overdue pay rises at a negotiating meeting on 2 August, the fire service national employers declared that they needed 'more time to study the [Audit Commission] report and to get expert advice before reaching a decision on it.
'The fact is that the only verification by 'experts' under the June 2003 Agreement was to be carried out by the Audit Commission.
'Further, the employers were in possession of the findings weeks ahead of the August 2 meeting. There is no barrier to paying the increases which are due to our members,' said Mr Fordham.
The FBU has called a meeting of the fire service national joint council on 26 August. 'We are hoping that at that meeting national employers will reach full and final agreement with the FBU so firefighters and emergency fire control staff can get on with the job of protecting the public.'
The industrial action ballot closes on 31 August.