Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Fire Working Group - a peer review

Have I lost you already? No really, some reviews of council services can be very helpful and interesting.

A team of experts is helping Cornwall's Fire and Rescue Service to assess what improvements have been made since the scathing report into the service last year. This team is made up of four uniformed fire officers from around the country including the chief officer of Kent Fire Service - acknowledged to be one of the best in the UK. Also with them is the lead councillor for Hampshire's fire service and an expert from IDeA - the body which organises these expert peer reviews.

Today's meeting was for the seven councillors on the Fire Working Group with the two 'civilian' members of the team. They wanted to ask us how we approached our scrutiny role and what we thought the challenges were for Cornwall's Fire and Rescue Service.

I can't really go into all the details of what we discussed, but the outcome was that we got a lot of ideas for further work as well as (hopefully) convincing the review team that Cornwall's fire brigade is on the right track to become an even better service - which I believe that it is, and setting out the challenges we think still need to be overcome.

But the main point of this post is that certain types of inspection and review can be incredibly helpful to a council's service. But the old Labour regime of endless inspections has the opposite effect - particularly when they are tick box exercises or where the inspectors simply watch and listen rather than use their experience to make suggestions for delivering a better service in the future.

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