Page last updated at 00:31 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Fire service given 'poor' rating

The brigade said it had achieved a reduction in accidental house fires

Cornwall's fire service and the body that oversees it have been labelled as "poor" by a government watchdog.

A report by the Audit Commission said the brigade and its fire authority were underperforming, and lowered their rating from fair, their level in 2005.

It called for better leadership and improvements in assessing areas and community groups most at risk.

The county council said it welcomed the report and had begun work on an action plan to tackle the issues raised.

The head of the Gloucestershire fire authority, Terry Standing, has already been drafted into to run the Cornish brigade on a temporary basis following the retirement of the previous chief fire officer, Matt Litmoden.

The authority often does not test the effectiveness of its contribution to community projects
Audit Commission
In its comprehensive performance assessment, Audit Commission Senior Manager Gary Emery said the brigade and authority had not developed their understanding of local needs and the context within which they carried out community safety activities.

He said: "While its staff are committed to providing an improved service for communities, and particularly for disadvantaged groups, the authority often does not test the effectiveness of its contribution to community projects."

The commission added that it did not engage effectively with partner organisations and had fallen behind the progress made by other fire authorities in modernising the service.

'Willing to improve'

Cornwall County Council chief executive Kevin Lavery said the council had been expecting a critical report.

He said: "The appointment of our interim chief fire officer, Terry Standing, has been a positive step in working with the Audit Commission and other government agencies such as Department for Communities and Local Government to show that we are willing and able to improve the service."

The county said it that brigade would start to "begin the long term planning process to take the service forward, with ambitions to become an 'excellent' service in the future."

Ken Yeo, the council's executive member for public protection added that the service carried out "great community and preventative work", including achieving a 15% reduction in accidental house fires over the past three years.

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