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Avon Fire and Rescue Service

Volume 627: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2017

On 2 February, the previous Minister for Policing and Fire announced an independent inspection, led by Dr Craig Baker, into a number of allegations made against Avon Fire and Rescue Authority. I am pleased to announce to Parliament that the inspection is now complete and the Government have today laid before the House and published the report and recommendations.

The inspection, which was the first of its kind, was established under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 (the “1999 Act”). The inspection considered the authority’s compliance with its “best value duty” under section 3 of the 1999 Act which requires the authority to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The report concluded that, in the lead inspector’s opinion, the authority is failing to comply with its duty under section 3 of the 1999 Act and makes a number of proposals for improvement in the areas of governance, leadership, culture and external scrutiny. The proposals include:

a review of the senior management board to ensure they have the necessary experience and capabilities to plan and deliver the transformational change required;

a de-layering exercise with regards to the senior management board with a focus on culture change and professionalism;

a review of the authority’s integrated risk management plan; and

the introduction of a programme board to drive change and support the senior management team.

The Government welcome this independent, comprehensive report and will work closely with Avon Fire and Rescue Authority, the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Local Government Association (LGA) to fully consider the inspector’s findings.

Public safety is a key Government priority and it is our ambition to build on the good progress fire and rescue services have already made to create a service that is more accountable, effective and professional than ever before. To support this, the Government have already announced:

an independent inspection regime for fire and rescue services in England;

the development of an independent professional standards body that will provide a coherent and comprehensive set of professional standards to drive improvements across the sector; and

a consultation on amendments to the fire and rescue national framework for England to include a requirement to discourage the practice of re-engaging senior officers post-retirement with an increase in take-home pay and pension benefits. The national framework is undergoing a complete revision and the new version will be published in early 2018.

I would like to thank Dr Baker and his team for the detailed report and recommendations and the professional manner in which they approached the inspection.