The Fire Service Needs ‘Radical’ Reform – Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor at FIREX 2016

Peter Holland CBE, the Home Office’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser (CFRA) has pledged to improve transparency, diversity and value-for-money during an address at the FIRE exhibition in London.

The update comes in the aftermath of a damning speech made last month by Home Secretary Theresa May who criticised the service for its lack of diversity and accountability. She also announced plans for Police and Crime Commissioners to take over the running of the service.

Peter Holland said: “The fire service has an amazing reputation with the public. The strong focus on fire prevention has been successful and we do have world-leading capabilities. Also the collaboration with partners over the last ten year has been amazing and very positive.

“However there is the need to reform. There has been a lot of bad press about bullying and harassment which doesn’t make great reading.

“The Home Secretary was very critical about the lack of diversity from a gender and race perspective and because of the loss of the inspectorate and audit commission there has been little external scrutiny.”

He added that the government and the public have been unable to compare performances to assess value for money. The recent Knight Review also identified that millions of pounds worth of savings could be made to the service.

“The word I would like to use is radical. Does that ring alarm bells? Well it could do but I don’t think it should. There is a lot of good stuff that is going on already and needs to go on.”

He insisted that the plan to enable PCCs to take responsibility for the service will not be a police takeover and will be assessed locally.

In addition, an independent inspection regime will be implemented. “Clearly there has been a gap here,” Mr Holland said. “The proposals for an inspectorate are moving very quickly with a potential ‘go live’ date for next year. That transparency will enable political leaders and the public to engage and scrutinise.”

There is a need for the FRS to work more closely with industry partners especially the insurance and fire protection sector, he stated.

“The fire and rescue service in the UK is world renowned and we can make it even better. I do believe there is a big gap and that is the learning from fires.

“For example, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) offer their services but people just don’t take advantage of what they can offer in analysing what has happened to the structure of buildings where fires have spread very rapidly and feeding that back into the building regulations.”