Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of a premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 1981. Accordingly, the question of whether the voluntary fire service referred to in the question should continue to operate is a matter for the relevant fire authority.
County, city and borough councils are designated fire authorities under the legislation. Outside the main cities which employ full-time fire fighters, fire services are provided by a retained staffing system. Retained fire-fighters are employees of fire authorities, and are organised to provide a full professional fire service for their communities. They are trained, equipped, supervised and operate to the same procedures as their full-time colleagues. Volunteer fire units operate in a relatively small number of areas, but outside the direct control of the fire authority.
The volunteer unit in question does not have the requisite training to attend certain types of incidents. While it has received some training, equipment and funding from the Council in the past, it does not report to and is not under the control of the Council's Fire Section.
As part of my Department's role in supporting and assisting local authorities in delivering fire services, including the setting of national policy and the provision of funding under the fire service capital programme, a programme for the preparation and dissemination of Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) covering all aspects of operational activity is in train. These are intended to assist fire authorities to meet their statutory duties, with due cognisance to compliance with health and safety.