27 January 2009

There has been a running debate – actually, a row – about the fire service in Cornwall. The county council Liberal Democrats have been accused of starving the service. I am looking in this post at two verdicts on the service.

First, Hansard 26 January 2009 column 110W gives some interesting data.

In 1997-98 there were 122 firefighters per 100 000 people in Cornwall. In 2007-08 that had declined to 115. However, those are way above the averages for England (92 and 88 for those years) and for 2007-08 Cornwall has the seventh best ratio of the forty six fire authorities in England, excluding the Scillies which are not strictly comparable with the others. In 1997-98 it was fifth.

There are other factors to be considered in judging the health of the service under the Liberal Democrats, including the overall budget, the proportion of fulltime and retained firefighters, and the number and location and hours of fire stations.

Second, there has just been a very critical report by the Audit Commission which cries out for improving action. But, while acknowledging other things, in the number of firefighters for its population Cornwall is doing very well compared to most of the England fire services. We should celebrate this.

A report by the BBC on the Audit Commission report is here.