framework for the fire and rescue services* but cautioned that its success
would be largely dependent on government's ability to work in real
partnership to deliver change in the service.
The Framework - which sets out the government's objectives for the fire and
rescue service - is designed to not only provide guidance in helping deliver
a better service that saves more lives, but also sets out what central
government will do to improve the service and what support fire and rescue
services can expect.
The 'contract' between central and local government will also provide the
means for both Parliament and the public to scrutinise the government's
performance on delivery.
The focus of the national framework is therefore on delivery at the local
and regional levels. Its three core principal objectives are:
- To provide clarity about the outcomes and objectives the government wants
- To set out government's expectation of fire and rescue services and
regional management boards;
- To explain what the government will do to support fire and rescue services
and regional management boards to meet these objectives.
However, the LGA has stressed that the framework must not become a
'blueprint' for service delivery. It believes that fire and rescue
authorities must be given the flexibility they need in order to effectively
meet the needs of their own local communities. This flexibility must remain
at the heart of the government's approach in order for the framework to
truly represent a partnership between local and central government. Any move
back towards a more prescriptive approach would turn back the clock to when
national standards resulted in resources being allocated according to
nationally assessed building risks rather than local assessment of the
potential for loss of life.
For example, gove rnment's plans to insist on the creation of regional
control rooms appears to contradict the framework's claim that it is
designed to allow local solutions and consequently local accountability.
Careful consideration must now be given to regional control rooms by fire
and rescue authorities before any final decisions are taken.
The LGA welcomed the government's commitment within the framework to begin a
comprehensive review of fire safety in building regulations and would like
to see this happen as a matter of urgency. In particular the intention to
look at the case for increasing the requirements for automatic sprinklers
where risks are greatest.
* See here.