The report revealed that Scottish fire brigades arrived on time at fewer blazes in densely populated areas and inner cities last year, according to The Scotsman (p1).
Mr Roberts said that despite increases in grant-aided expenditure to fire brigades from the Scottish Office, real levels of funding had fallen since the abolition of regional councils in 1996.
He said that in the past regional councils had topped up the difference between the level of GAE awarded by the Scottish Office and the true level of spending needed to maintain standards. But since 1996, no brigade had received a penny more than GAE.
'New road traffic measures in city centres and built-up areas all add up to it taking longer to get to fires.'
Neil Morrison, the chief inspector of fire brigades, said his inspectorate kept its own performance records and had not noticed any comparable fall in standards. He said: 'There is a fairly confused picture about how the fire brigades are recording information. But we certainly hope to see an improvement next year.'