The Auditor General for Wales has today published a new report on North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority looking at how well the Authority is improving its services.
The Auditor General for Wales set out some important messages on how North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority is planning to improve its services in his 2009-10 annual improvement report. The report is the first of its kind, following new legislation in April 2010, which requires authorities to make arrangements to improve their services and the way that they work. This first year has been a period of adjustment, and this report is a starting point for the Auditor General to make much fuller assessments of how fire and rescue authorities are performing in future years.
The report's main message was that stable leadership and improvements to corporate governance are likely to support improvement in the future although the Authority faces some challenges. A summary of the key conclusions is set out below.
The Authority is well run in terms of leadership and people management. It is working well with others in partnership; however, there are some weaknesses in performance management and business processes need to be developed further. The Authority's budget has been well managed and money has been spent in a proper way. It is currently forecasting an underspend of £105,123 for the current financial year (2010-11). The Authority is making sensible preparations for the financial challenges ahead and considering a range of financial and service options. Its budget for 2011-12 is designed to achieve efficiencies of £0.8 million. The Authority's accounting statements present a true and fair view of its financial transactions.
The Authority's published improvement objectives are clear and many have defined measures of success. The Authority recognises that some of its improvement objectives will be difficult to measure and will develop and introduce further local performance indicators.
The Authority is doing many of the right things to reduce the likelihood and impact of fires but recognises there is room for improvement. The Authority's approach is based upon an understanding of the contributory factors that make some people more likely than others to have fires in their homes. It has been working with key partners to identify and mitigate risk and the number of fires attended is reducing. But, it still faces challenges, particularly in reducing fire deaths in homes. The Authority runs a number of programmes aimed at children and young people in respect of fire prevention as well as road safety. Road traffic collision related fatalities and serious accidents have increased since 2003 but the Authority is working in partnership with the police to improve safety on the roads.
The Authority has responded to a wide range of fire and other threats to safety. It received approximately 17,000 calls related to emergency incidents in 2009-10. The number of malicious calls that the Authority received and attended has decreased since 2004-05, mainly due to suspect calls being challenged by control operators and action being taken against people making malicious calls. The Authority has been working to make changes to health and safety arrangements following a Health and Safety Executive inspection in December 2009 but even so personnel injuries 'on duty' and sickness absence have increased since 2007-08.
The Authority is taking steps to improve training and has a comprehensive operational learning process in place, allowing staff to observe incidents and gather information for training and health and safety purposes.