Last reviewed 24 May 2022

The Home Office has published a White Paper, Reforming our Fire and Rescue Service: Building Professionalism, Boosting Performance and Strengthening Governance, and launched a consultation seeking views on these proposals to introduce system-wide reform of services in England.

The White Paper and details of the consultation can both be found here. The deadline for submitting comments is 26 July 2022.

This consultation, which seeks to continue the Government’s work in delivering fire reform in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, focuses on three key areas as follows.

People

The proposals seek to introduce changes that will allow fire professionals to further develop their skills and thrive in their work. The aim is to clarify the role of fire and rescue services and of the firefighter, unlock talent and improve diversity within services while taking action to ensure that the creation of a positive culture is being supported.

The Home Office will further develop schemes to consistently identify and nurture talent and will commission an independent review into the current pay negotiation process and consider if it is fit for a modern emergency service.

Professionalism

Here the White Paper seeks to modernise the fire and rescue service to enable greater professionalism and to ensure that the best possible outcomes from recruitment and training.

It states: “We want to increase professionalism by moving from a Fire Standards Board (which sets clear expectations for the sector) to the creation of a College of Fire and Rescue. We want to develop a mandatory 21st century leadership programme for progression to senior roles, set clearer entry requirements for recruitment, and put in place a statutory code of ethics and a fire and rescue service oath.”

Governance

Noting that, out of 44 fire and rescue authorities, 38 operate a committee structure, the White Paper proposes transferring fire functions to a single, elected — ideally directly elected — individual who would hold their operationally independent Chief Fire Officer to account.

This person could be a mayor who could delegate day-to-day oversight to a deputy mayor or a council leader who could delegate to a cabinet member or a police, fire and crime commissioner.

“This effective political oversight would maintain and enhance public accountability,” it argues.