AS JUSTICE MINISTER KENNY MacASKILL STATES THAT THERE IS A “COMPELLING ARGUMENT” FOR A SINGLE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE IN SCOTLAND, LOTHIAN & BORDERS FIRE CHIEF JIMMY CAMPBELL TELLS DEADLINE NEWS WHY HE TOO SUPPORTS THE IDEA
“For those working in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services and providing a vital emergency response and community safety role to the people of Scotland on a daily basis, this announcement gives some clarity and direction after a period of anxious speculation and concern over what impact UK budget cuts would have on our organisation.
“Today’s Parliamentary statement by the Cabinet Secretary is an opportunity to have a fresh look at how fire and rescue services manage and deliver services to our communities.
“As far back as July of last year I acknowledged that a merger of the eight fire and rescue services across Scotland was inevitable in the face of swingeing financial budget cuts facing the public sector.
“This consultation will give the public the opportunity to have their say on what they expect from their fire and rescue service (FRS); it gives the business community an opportunity to highlight the important part the FRS contributes to the prevention of fires, in emergency response and protecting the local economy.
“It also gives the Service itself an opportunity to remove invisible boundaries and consider new and innovative ways to manage and deliver a 21st century fire and rescue service.
“We face major challenges on the operational front as the profile of emergencies change. While we have been very successful in reducing those killed or injured in fires in the home, the Association of British Insurers reports fire damage costs more than £3.6m every day in the UK.
“Many businesses which suffer a fire never recover with a subsequent loss of jobs and the negative effect this has on the local economy and the community.
“Climate change will present us with almost unprecedented challenges and we must play our full part in the security of our country from external threats. All this in the face of significant cuts in our budget.
“I believe we must remain locally accountable to the communities we serve. The Service is at the heart of our communities.
“We have been hugely successful in bringing down fire deaths and injuries and we are able to do this through our understanding of local needs and being held accountable at the point of service.
“Providing we don’t lose this local accountability there is no reason why we can’t design a Service that removes the duplication and inefficiencies that are an inherent part of the current set up.
“This approach is also consistent with the planning that has been done by our local Fire and Rescue Board which has also accepted that restructure in some form will be necessary in order to provide the significant financial efficiencies required by central and local government.
“I accept that a consultation on the restructure of the fire and rescue service is necessary if public finance efficiencies over the next four years are to be achieved. A detailed consultation process will inform the future direction we take.
“This process must involve extensive research to provide evidenced based solutions that will ensure that intervention and prevention standards, designed to protect our communities, are maintained.
“This will require a national approach from all stakeholders. Discussions are already underway to establish a realistic direction and course of action that fundamentally protects our frontline firefighters and support staff and maintains the quality standard of services that the people of Scotland have come to expect.
“We know that economic challenges require to be met and we look forward to engaging in the debate and responding to the consultation with positive and constructive contributions.
“I will continue to work closely with the Chief Fire Officers Association Scotland (CFOAS), our staff and trade unions, local authorities and central government, as we will all play a key part in helping to achieve a solution that will continue to provide a robust and strong fire and rescue service for the people of Scotland.”
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