Published: 28/07/2012 12:00 - Updated: 27/07/2012 14:23

Highland and Islands Fire and Rescue Service responds to critical report

Controversy surrounds a major shake-up of the fire service.A “POSITIVE and clear direction of travel” is being undertaken by Highland and Islands Fire and Rescue Service in the wake of controversy, according to senior management.

The Accounts Commission published fierce criticism of the service earlier this year highlighting serious concerns about the brigade’s management and the level of training for crews.

In recent months, the emergency service has been the subject of internal and external audit – notably from Audit Scotland – which revealed that there was significant challenges for the service in delivering its mission of “Helping make the Highlands and Islands a safer and better place to live, work and visit”.

In order to tackle these challenges directly, the Safer Firefighter programme was introduced to improve training and a peer support team was set up to provide advice, support and scrutiny.

The latest meeting of senior management and the Peer Support Team took place on Tuesday.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Stewart Edgar said that although challenges remain there had been notable improvements in training and auditing of high risk accommodation – another criticism made by the Accounts Commission.

During the meeting, the team analysed all aspects of service improvement and noted key developments in the areas of IT infrastructure, training, communications with stakeholders and local government engagement.

Despite the good news, Mr Edgar sought to dispel any signs of complacency.

“It is vitally important that HIFRS demonstrate a clear improvement to those appointed to analyse and scrutinise,” he said.

“All the areas of further improvement and refinement identified are either underway or are contained within the service improvement action plan.

“It is pleasing that there are no “surprises” under such close scrutiny and that we were able to demonstrate the service is on a very positive path.”

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