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The Management Of Fire And Rescue Services In The UK

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  • Full or part time
    Prof D Smith
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

The management of Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) is one of the most under-researched public services, both in the UK and elsewhere (Wankheda and Murphy 2012). This is despite FRSs being an almost universal international service, delivered by central and local governments, by private sector providers, and by third sector organisations and volunteer services in different parts of the world.

Between 2010 and 2015 the Coalition Government in England pursued a policy of ‘austerity localism’ (Lowndes and Pratchett, 2012), and initiated governance and budgetary reforms designed for deficit reduction through changes to the spending review, budget, and audit and accountability arrangements. Reforms such as the Localism Act 2011 have given Fire and Rescue Authorities greater autonomy over spending decisions but not local revenue generation, which has had significant implications for service configuration and resource allocations within Fire and Rescue Services, both locally in Nottinghamshire and nationally.

In order to assess these initiatives the National Audit Office recently commissioned an overview of the current state of the audit and assurance regimes for Fire and Rescue Services in the context of the continuing austerity of the last five years (Ferry and Murphy 2015). This report highlighted the effects of austerity on the arrangements for public accountability (including audit, performance management and regulation) and transparency (openness of data and analysis capability) and concluded that the risks to achieving Value for Money had increased, while the assurance to the public about the economic efficient and effective expenditure of public money had deteriorated.

In stark contrast over the last five years, Scotland has successfully merged its’ eight former FRS into a single ‘nationalised’ service, generating substantial savings with an improvement in performance while at the same time having no detrimental impact on the public during the merger period (Auditor General for Scotland 2015). In all parts of the UK mergers and/or integration of two or more of the three ‘blue light’ emergency services are being debated by all of the major political parties. Meanwhile the pattern of risks to businesses communities and individuals is constantly changing not least because of environmental and technological changes.

The primary purpose of NBS recent research has been based around 5 fundamental principles – helping to develop and improve economic, efficient and effective public services that are sustainable in the long term and treat all people and communities equably in their exposure to the individual and collective risks that fall within the jurisdiction of the emergency services. Following initial studies in at local and national level in England, we have gradually expanded our field of interest to include the operation of emergency services in the remainder of the British Isles.

The purpose of the proposed study is therefore to develop and expand this international perspective and examine and compare the governance, leadership, structure and operational performance of Fire and Rescue Services in the UK with the service in selected international jurisdictions.

The objectives of the study are to:-
• Map the arrangements and configuration of Emergency Services/FRS in the British Isles.
• Identify suitable countries to facilitate a comparative study.
• Develop an evaluation framework for comparing service configuration, service delivery and service improvement.
• Apply the evaluative framework to selected international jurisdictions.

The study will used a mixed methods approach involving both quantitative and qualitative research, and will benefit from access to a number of existing databases. The research team have greatly benefitted from close co-operation with local Fire and Rescue Services, with the Chief Fire Officers Association, the Fire Service College, the Local Government Association and the National Audit Office.


Auditor General for Scotland 2015. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Edinburgh Audit Scotland.
Ferry, L. & Murphy, P. 2015 forthcoming A Comparative Review of Financial Sustainability, Accountability and Transparency of Local Public Service Bodies in England under Austerity
Lowndes, V. & Pratchett, L. 2012, Local governance under the Coalition Government: austerity, localism and the big society, Local Government Studies, Vol. 38 (1), pp. 21-40.
Wankheda, P. & Murphy, P. 2012. Bridging the theory and practice gap in emergency services research: the case for a new journal. International Journal of Emergency Services Vol 1 (1) pp 4-9.

Alford, J. and O’Flynne, J 2012 Rethinking Public Service Delivery: Managing with external providers Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Benington, J. & Moore, M H. 2011 Public Value: Theory and Practice Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Denhardt, J V. and Denhardt, R B. 2015 The New Public Service: Serving not Steering 4th Edition New York: Routledge.
Ewen, S. 2010 Fighting Fires: The creation of the British Fire Service, 1800-1978. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Hood, C. 2010. Accountability and Transparency: Siamese twins, matching parts, awkward couple? West European Politics, 33 (5): 989-1009.
Joyce, P. and Drumaux A 2014 Strategic Management in Public Organizations: European Practices and Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge.
Mackie, R. 2013 Managing Scotland’s Public Services Edinburgh W Green
Murphy, P. and Greenhalgh, K. 2013 Performance management in fire and rescue services, Public Money and Management, Vol. 33 (3), pp. 225-232.
Ridley, D. 2012 The Literature Review: A step-by-step guide London: Sage.
Van Thiel S 2014 Research Methods in Public Administration and Public Management: An introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.
Van Dooren, W. Boyrkheart, G. and Halligan, J. 2015. 2nd edition Performance Management in the Public Sector New York: Routledge.
Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. 2009 The Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone. London: Penguin.

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