London’s fire commissioner says his brigade has already delivered many of the recommendations contained in a new report on the future of English Fire Brigades.
UK Government ministers asked Sir Ken Knight, himself a former London Fire Commissioner, to review the potential for efficiencies and operational reforms to fire and rescue services across England.
His final report, which was published on Friday, says fire brigades have failed to change despite a notable reduction in the number of fires over the past decade.
In London the number of fires has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1966 according to London Fire Brigade statistics.
The Brigade also says the number of hoax phone calls it receives has fallen by 83 per cent over the last ten years.
The report says the fall in fires “suggests that there is room for reconfiguration and efficiencies to better match the service to the current risk and response context.”
It also notes that spending varies significantly between England’s 46 fire authorities, with some spending “almost twice as much per person per year” than other areas but states “there seems to be little relationship between expenditure and outcomes.”
The report also questions the need for having separate fire authorities and suggests creating a single service for the whole of England, as has happened in Scotland.
Other recommendations include introducing efficiencies in budgets and staffing and greater involvement of the private sector, a suggestion the Government has already rejected.
Responding to the report, London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson suggested the capital had made greater progress than other brigades in modernising the service.
The London Fire Brigade has already reformed shift patterns and is currently consulting on a new Draft London Safety Plan which would reduce the number of fire engines and stations to match current and projected demand.
Mr Dobson said: “Many of the recommendations in Sir Ken’s report have already been implemented in London and as a result we have made significant savings of £66 million since 2009.
“Savings have been made on non-operational staff, including reducing our senior management structure, without making any reduction in the number of firefighters. We have introduced shared service working with some office based staff and our reserves have been reduced from a total of £65 million in 2007 to around £11 million in general reserves today.”
The closures contained in the Draft London Safety Plan have attracted criticism from politicians and the Fire Brigades Union.
However Mr Dobson said he was “confident we can make the savings proposed in the draft London Safety Plan whilst continuing to keep Londoners safe.”
He added: “Preventing fires before they happen is our priority and our commitment to community safety work will continue, including our successful home fire safety scheme, which sees around 70,000 free smoke alarms fitted each year.”