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by the NFCC


Fit for the Future (FfF) lays out a proposal for establishing a common picture, or vision, for the future of fire and rescue services in England. Its purpose is to identify what needs to change, using a sound evidence base and then identify how that change could be delivered, by supporting its implementation across all services. This initial concept has been developed in partnership by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), the National Employers (England) and the Local Government Association (LGA); however, engagement is continuing to refine its content so as to be acceptable to all who have responsibility for leading the fire and rescue service at strategic level. The idea is to have common agreement about what needs to improve and how the benefits of that improvement can be realised.

The risk profile that the fire and rescue service contributes to managing has changed over time, with some significant reductions in the likelihood of fire. There has, of late, been evidence of an upturn in the frequency of fires which is a cause for concern. The Grenfell Tower fire has again highlighted the high expectations of the public in terms of service delivery. Fire and rescue services could also play a greater role in the regulatory environment, all of which needs to be seen in the context of other drivers for improvement.

To identify overall areas for improvement the National Employers (England), the LGA and the NFCC have developed an approach that draws upon the available information about service effectiveness and efficiency from service reviews, inspectorate reports and expert commentary. It uses this information to create the common future improvement objectives that are set out in this document. 

This approach and its outputs the Improvement objectives. It is clear that the availability of some data, particularly at national level, can be patchy, particularly relating to the quality of service provided. The future of the existing common incident database (IRS) is also currently uncertain and needs to be resolved. 

With a core, common suite of areas of improvement agreed across all parties, other strategic elements of the service can be aligned to support the delivery of the improvement. This would inform the overall funding and strategic direction of fire and rescue services. 

As illustrated above, some of the key issues driven by this approach are:

  • Production of central guidance, doctrine and tools
  • Standards development
  • Audit and inspection
  • Pay and conditions for staff
  • Adequate funding and investment

In this way, efforts can be focused and programmes and projects, including jointly, to deliver change can be funded and delivered. It is vital, however, to not see this proposal as another static “snapshot” of the improvements needed. Instead it should be regarded as the establishment of a changing picture of what is needed, always drawing on current evidence. As the evidence base matures and changes over time, the focus for improvement may change. But new drivers for change can be seen in the context of existing evidence and data, rather than in isolation. 

So, this is a proposal for the development of a system of evidence-based improvements, not a rigid setting of static objectives that is inflexible and unresponsive. Leaders in the service will need to continually review new evidence and make changes where appropriate, delivered locally through consistent Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP). Joint arrangements to do this will be put in place.