Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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ECFRS is Facing the Future right now

Senior officers at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service have today spoken out to reassure the public over the future of the County’s fire service.

The reassurance comes in response to a widely-publicised, independent report by Sir Ken Knight, former chief fire and rescue adviser for England, recommending radical change for the UK’s fire and rescue service.

The report, called Facing the Future, looks into efficiencies which could be achieved by fire services and points towards merger, collaboration and even potential nationalisation as a route to delivering up to £200 million in savings.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley says: “As a Service, Essex is already following a number of the strategies set out in Sir Ken’s report and we have a good story to tell. We are midway through a major workforce transformation programme designed to completely overhaul the organisation, its people and its processes.

“We are implementing new ways of working to use our people in the most efficient and effective way to cover temporary shortfalls on fire stations and improve the availability of fire engines across the County. We have reduced firefighter numbers.

“Over the last two years, we have changed the crewing system for two appliances – at Brentwood and Canvey - to use on call crews as recommended by Sir Ken. We have a good mixed approach to crewing with wholetime, retained and day crewing arrangements in place.

“We have been an active partner in collaborative procurement activities that have led to a standardisation of the equipment used across organisational boundaries which, most importantly, have delivered significant reductions in the cost of products and services.

“We are already sharing our assets with other emergency service organisations like the Police and Coastguard to make sure we get maximum utilisation from our buildings and deliver value for money to Essex council tax payers.”

In addition, said DCFO Eckley, decisions have been taken that have driven down ‘999’ calls beyond those reductions delivered by significant preventative, community safety work and through greater use of targeted, intelligence-led decision making which is making sure ECFRS’ services are matched to risk and delivered when and where they are needed most.

“We have delivered significant savings over the last few years against a political mandate from the Fire Authority that there should be no fire station closures, no reduction in the number of frontline appliances serving the County and no compulsory redundancies among our uniformed personnel.

“Over the next few years, we are anticipating a need to deliver services with significantly less money, so clearly some of the strategies Sir Ken outlines will continue to be on our radar. We will have to continue to review Service activities to ensure they remain aligned to reductions in Government funding and take some difficult decisions.

“The fire and rescue service is likely to undergo significant change and traditional work practices will have to be challenged as managers across the UK look to deliver more for less. The key will be working with our staff, our representative bodies and the Fire Authority to maintain quality services for Essex that match resources to risk and continue to deliver value for money.

“ECFRS senior managers will consider the report and the recommendations with members of the Fire Authority in due course.”

Sir Ken, who visited Essex as part of his research work, says he found that services continue to spend according to the budget they are given rather than to the risks they have to manage. And he pointed to huge variations between how the 46 different fire authorities operate, with the cost per head of providing a service almost double in some areas regardless of whether they are large or small, rural or urban, deprived or affluent.

At ECFRS, the overall number of incidents attended has fallen from 28.314 in 2003/04 to 14,082 in 2012/13. The number of fires attended dropped from 12,529 to 4,234 for the same period. The cost per head of population for ECFRS services equates to 85p per person per week.

A full copy of Sir Ken's report is under supported documents.

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