The document is well worth a read as it (and the full version) explores some of the options open to the Fire Service in terms of maintaining its effectiveness, increasing what it does, whilst at the same time minimising back office costs.
In a nutshell the strategy proposes that :
- Cheshire Fire Service should concentrate solely on Cheshire rather than exploring options to merge with other fire and rescue services;
- the Fire Service's support functions should be shared with others if costs savings can be made - such as a focus on collaboration with Cheshire Police and potentially others locally;
- a review of emergency response arrangements takes place so as to ensure that the resources in place reflect local risks and activity levels;
- the Service reviews its prevention and protection functions; and
- the Fire Authority should consider asking residents to vote for an additional Council Tax increase if the Authority feels that the alternatives would increase local risk levels unacceptably.
From my point of view I believe the Fire Authority is absolutely right to ask these questions. It must be right that the Authority should seek to minimise 'back-office' costs and ensure that the Services resources are deployed appropriately and effectively. I also support collaboration with others especially if it improves emergency cover overall. I do believe it makes sense for fire officers to be able to act as paramedics, for example.
That said before any decisions are made I would want to know what the change to any risk profile would be and understand whether such changes make sense. I also believe that the communities who may be affected by any change should also be consulted about them specifically. I'd be interested in seeing detail on the following sort of level:
Eg - moving an appliance from Station A to Station B would mean the response time to Community C would change by X minutes. Community C has the following vulnerabilities etc... Over the last Z years there have been Y call-outs to Community C. This proposed change is justified because...
Over the last 4 years the service has saved £7m.
In the last decade the number of call-outs have fallen 43%
You can let the Fire Authority know your views through an on-line survey by following this link:
Incidentally I do think it is somewhat daft that each of our emergency services has different governance arrangements. The police now have the Police and Crime Commissioner. How about we have one commissioner for all our blue light services? That would be very interesting and would no doubt lead to significant cost savings and perhaps a more integrated response.