In general, demand for our emergency response service has halved over the past ten years. We are now attending 60% fewer fires, 23% fewer road crashes and 70% fewer false alarms. Our continuous investment in community safety has helped us achieve these great results.
In 2016/17 the number of fires remained in line with previous years. Although the long term trend shows that fire incidents could continue to reduce, this downward trend is likely to come to an end in the next few years. Our response times to life-threatening incidents have not changed significantly compared to previous years although they remain slightly below the levels we would like to achieve. Road traffic collisions, and the number of people who die or suffer life-changing injuries as a result, are a priority area for us and our partners. The number of collisions to which we are called has reduced by 23% in the past ten years. However, the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads has increased slightly over the past four years.
Every year external audit assesses the Authority’s financial statements. The External Auditor’s Audit Findings Report for 2015/16 was reported to the General Purposes Committee in November 2016. The report confirms that the Authority had put in place proper arrangements in place to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the year ended 31 March 2016.
Governance Assurance Statement
The Authority is required to undertake an annual review of its governance processes and to publish a Statement setting out the results of the review. The Statement, which is available on the Authority’s website, shows how the Authority demonstrates good governance in its actions and also how it meets the requirements of the National Framework for Fire and Rescue Services.
We publish extensive performance and financial information on our website including transparency data such as all our spending over £250, a register of contracts and the pay of our senior managers. This allows you to judge for yourself how well we are performing and providing value for money. You can also request data from us through our website. On average, we respond to Freedom of Information requests within five days. Frequently asked questions are also available on our website for the most common enquiries.
What our future challenges are
Over the last few years we have made changes to the way we work in both the frontline and back office. We have invested in electronic systems which have allowed us to reduce administration and simplify internal processes. By working closely with partners we are able to achieve efficiencies through joint procurement or by combining back-office functions where appropriate.
Over the past six years we have saved approximately £17m and we know that a further £8m will be required between 2017/18 and 2019/20. Our challenge is to make sure our savings plan is sustainable and deliverable so that we can continue to deliver a high-quality and effective service.
The Government has offered local authorities guaranteed four-year funding allocations to help them plan for the future. This guarantees the minimum amount that we will receive in Government Grants up to 2019/20. The rest of the income is provided by business rates and Council Tax. Last year the Government consulted on the future funding arrangements for fire and rescue authorities. Although the outcomes of the consultation should not have an impact on the Authority’s finances in the short term, it could have an impact in future years.
Under the Policing and Crime Bill, which is expected to become law in early 2017, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) will be empowered to take on control of their local fire service where a business case demonstrates that there are clear benefits in doing so. We already collaborate significantly with Kent Police and will continue to look at opportunities to extend this collaboration where it offers advantages to both of us.
The Home Office has indicated that fire and rescue services will need to follow a national inspection regime similar to that in place for the police. The aim is to drive change in the fire sector nationally. The details of how the regime will work and when it will come into force are still being developed. However, early indications are that the inspection criteria will revolve around three areas: efficiency and collaboration, accountability and transparency, and the reform of the fire and rescue workforce.